In brief: A former student has pleaded guilty to destroying 66 computers owned by the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, using a ‘USB Killer’ device.
On February 14, 27-year-old Vishwanath Akuthota, an Indian national living in the US on a student visa, annihilated 59 Windows PCs, seven Apple computers, and several digital monitors and podiums that feature USB ports.
When plugged into a device, the USB killer starts collecting power from the source in its capacitors until it reaches a high voltage and then it discharges that back into the host device. This voltage overloads and destroys the computer’s USB port and electrical systems. The sticks can be easily ordered online or even created at home using various electrical parts. New cryptographic authentication protocol in USB-C is supposed to help prevent against this kind of attack however there are claims that with the proper devices, this protocol can still be bypassed.
According to a press release, Akuthota recorded himself destroying some of the computers on his iPhone, which probably explains why he pleaded guilty. He made statements such as “I’m going to kill this guy” before inserting the USB Killer.
Akuthota caused $51,109 worth of equipment damages, and employee time for investigating and replacing the destroyed hardware came to $7,362. He has agreed to pay the full amount back to the college as part of his guilty plea.
Akuthota graduated from the College of Saint Rose with a master’s degree in Business back in 2017. His motivations for the attack are still unclear, though it’s thought he could have a grudge against someone at the college—judging from his recordings
Sentencing is set to take place on August 12. Akuthota faces ten years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of post-prison supervision.