It's no secret that electronics are expensive. With new desktop and laptop computers costing between $500 - $1,600, and new smartphones costing hundreds, each gadget you purchase is a huge investment.
That's why it goes without saying, you need to do everything possible to protect your devices. Some of the threats out there - such as spyware, adware and ransomware - are hiding behind malicious links, fake apps and bad attachments. However, some of the dangers come in surprisingly inconspicuous packaging.
Imagine finding a misplaced USB drive at a park, restaurant or any other public location. At first, you might think it's your lucky day - free storage! You might also become curious about the drive's previous owners. What's stored on the disk already? Maybe private documents, maybe private photos.
Regardless, collecting the lost drive is a tempting thought, and many in that situation would pick the drive up, connecting it later to their own devices.
Here's why that's a terrible idea, though. A company based in Hong Kong has built a "weaponized" USB stick. Yes, that's right, we said weaponized. The device is only about the size of the tip of your thumb, but it's powerful enough to fry any gadget.
What to look for
A previous version of this "USB Kill Stick" has been found before, but this newer version is even more menacing. Once plugged in, the tiny gadget goes to work, rapidly charging its capacitors before discharging. The power behind this discharge is enough to ruin the circuits of whatever gadget its connected to, including tablets, laptops, desktop computers, smartphones, and even larger systems such as those found in cars and public kiosks.
According to the USB stick's creators, the device was not designed for harmful purposes, but rather to test the capacity of electronic circuitry. Unfortunately, though, there's no way of predicting how those who purchase the drive will use it.
Currently, two versions of the drive have been found. One includes the manufacturer's details printed on it, and the other is an "anonymous" version that looks like something you could easily pick up at Staples.
What are the odds of encountering this device while going about your everyday activities? It's tough to say. Since the cost of this USB Kill Stick only costs around $53, more people might be using it than you realize. That's why the best practice is to just ignore any lost storage drives you find laying around, or to destroy them. But, whatever you do, don't use them! Doing so could leave you with a bricked, unusable device.