A former student returned to his college and fried $51,000 worth of computers using a simple device you can easily buy online

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  • A former student of a college in New York state fried several of the college's computers and hardware using a device called a "USB Killer" that can easily be bought online, according to court documents first spotted by ZDNet.
  • USB Killer devices charge themselves and quickly discharge enough electricity into a computer's USB port to damage the computer's internal parts.
  • The damages totalled over $58,000, including employee time for repairs.
  • The former student plead guilty to multiple charges and is facing $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

A graduate of the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, returned to his alma-mater in February 2019 and fried several computers and other hardware designed to be used by students and staff of the college using a device called a "USB Killer," according to court documents first spotted by ZDNet.

The devices that were destroyed included 59 Windows computers, seven Apple computers, and "numerous" computer monitors and computer-enhanced podiums at the college, according to the court documents.

The former student, who had graduated from the college with an MBA in 2017, apparently filmed himself in the act of destroying the college-owned computers and hardware. In the videos, the graduate allegedly said "I'm going to kill this guy" while inserting the USB Killer device into a college computer. After the USB Killer fried the hardware, the graduate supposedly said "it's dead...it's gone...boom."

It's not clear why the former student did this.

The damages totalled $58,471, including $51,109 for the damaged devices, and $7,362 "in employee time investigating, repairing, and replacing the computer hardware."

broken computerBroken computer keyboards are seen in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw, December 13, 2013. Picture taken December 13.REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

USB Killers can easily be purchased online. One listing for a USB Killer device with the "Amazon's Choice" badge says the device is designed to "test surge protection" on devices. But later in the product description, the lister said "Simply put: used on unprotected equipment, the USB Killer instantly and permanently disables unprotected hardware."

The devices work by charging themselves, then quickly releasing that charge back through the a computer's USB port. The graduate allegedly repeated this quick charge-and-discharge "multiple times per second," resulting in fried internal computer parts.

USB Killer devices can be sold with adapters that fit into several devices, like smartphones and tablets. Some listings for other USB Killers without the "Amazon's Choice" badge include warnings, like "Please do not use for illegal activities."

USB Killer devices are not illegal, and can supposedly be used for legal functions. But it should go without saying that destroying computers and hardware that aren't yours without the permission of the owner is thoroughly illegal.

The graduate, who is from India and is in the US on a student visa, has plead guilty to multiple charges and faces $250,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison.

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