Every computer user should be aware that third-party USB sticks are not without risk. Now, however, particularly dangerous variants have appeared.

It was an inconspicuous USB stick that Lenin Artieda found in his mail on Monday. As the journalist plugged the stick into his work computer, an explosion shook the newsroom of his employer, the Ecuadorian television station Ecuavisa TV. The stick had been a cleverly disguised bomb.

Artieda largely escaped unscathed. He only suffered minor injuries to his hands and face, there were no other injuries reported “CBS”, citing police information. According to the police, he was lucky. “Only half of the explosives in the device exploded, so the effect was smaller,” national forensics director Xavier Chango told Funda Medios.

suspicion of terrorism

The fact that the police are now investigating suspected terrorism is because Artieda is not alone: ​​four other Ecuadorian journalists had also received a package with a stick. “It was actually the same device in all five sites,” the country’s interior minister, Juan Zapata, confirmed to reporters. Apart from Artieda, however, no other journalist had connected the stick to a computer, so they did not detonate.

From the outside, it was a standard USB stick, but instead of a circuit board, an explosive charge was hidden in it. It was then ignited with the power contact on the computer. “It’s a military explosive, but a very small charge,” the Guardian quoted forensic scientist Chango as saying. He suspects the RDX explosive as a charge.

The Minister of the Interior strongly condemned the attacks. “This is a clear attempt to silence journalists,” he lamented. The government made it clear that it “categorically rejects any form of violence against journalists and the media,” it said in a statement. The country’s increasingly aggressive drug gangs are currently being suspected.

Be careful with USB

Caution is always required when handling USB sticks. It is true that this is the first case in which the data carriers are used as a bomb. However, it was not the first attack via a USB stick. In this way, infected models can be used to gain access to computers. The well-known CIA attack on Iranian uranium enrichment plants was made possible via a USB stick that placed the specially developed Stuxnet Trojan in the plant’s network. Many everyday Trojans are also able to infect connected sticks in order to transfer themselves to other computers. The notorious Russian hackers Fin7 had already run a campaign using sticks sent by post (read more here).

But computers can also be at risk. As early as 2015, a researcher had developed a stick that could damage computers. If you connect it, it doesn’t transfer any data, but instead sends 220 volts through the USB port. This is how most hard drives are supposed to be destroyed, explains its inventor.

Quellen: CBS, The Guardian, Funda Media