Using ‘USB Killer,’ former student fries $58,000 in college computer equipment

An alumnus of The College of St. Rose destroyed 66 computers, monitors and digital podiums using a device he bought online.
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A former student of The College of St. Rose, a private college in Albany, New York, pleaded guilty last week to destroying computer equipment owned by the college by using a weaponized USB drive.

Vishwanath Akuthota, age 27, who graduated from St. Rose with an MBA in 2017 and resides in the U.S. on a student visa, initially pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, but later admitted that on Feb. 14 he inserted a “USB Killer” into 66 computer, monitors, and computer-enhanced podiums, according to the Department of Justice.

The incident has resulted in more than $58,000 in damages to the college, which Akuthota must repay according to the terms of his plea agreement.

As Akuthota inserted the USB Killer into computer equipment, he recorded himself on his phone proclaiming, “I’m going to kill this guy,” and — after destroying the host device — stating, “It’s dead,” and, in another instance, “It’s gone. Boom,” according to court documents obtained by DZ Net.


Disguised as a typical USB thumb drive, the device fries the hardware components of a computer by sending rapid, high-voltage power surges into the device it has been connected to.

Such devices can be easily purchased online — as was done by Akuthota — for less than $100. Similar homemade devices can also be constructed using easily accessible parts.

However, despite the obvious potential for harmful misuse, USB Killers do have apparent legitimate application. According to USB Kill, the Hong Kong-based company that originally developed the device, the device is developed and sold as a testing device intended to test USB ports against power surge attacks. The company said it “strongly condemns malicious use of its products.”

Akuthota currently awaits sentencing, which has been set for Aug. 12. He could serve up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release after his sentence has been served.

The motivation for Akuthota’s attack on St. Roses’s computers is unclear and no other individuals have been charged in connection with his crime.


St. Rose told EdScoop it has been asked by law enforcement not to comment on this case.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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