Private and corporate data is crticial to its owner, so protecting it is extremely important. But those who want to steal the data are quite resourceful, which makes physical protection of things like laptops tricky. Corporate desktops and laptops can be disabled remotely, but not all consumer laptops are equipped with this capability. To secure these machines, a group of enthusiasts designed the BusKill USB kill switch cord that disables the system if it gets disconnected.
The BusKill USB kill cord for a laptop is a relatively simple device with a USB connector on one side, a USB drive on another and a carabiner to attach it to a belt loop. The kill cable pairs with appropriate software (compatible with Windows 10, Mac OS 10.05, and Ubuntu 20.04/18.04) that continuously checks the connection to the USB drive with keys.
Once the PC is physically separated from its owner (e.g., when a laptop is taken away or stolen), a special Python script either locks the screen or shuts the machine down. It can even wipe out the drive (Linux only, deletes the LUKS header) or encryption keys of an FED drive (which will render data unusable). In fact, 'everything scriptable' can be triggered, according to the manufacturer.
The BusKill software can be armed when using a PC outside or in places with certain risks. It can also be disarmed when the PC is at home or in a secure location. Furthermore, the breakaway connector uses strong magnets to avoid accidental disconnections.
While BusKill adds a level of protection to laptops, the best thing it can do (at least in Windows and macOS) is to log out from the system. This forces the perpetrator to authenticate, which will still be possible with weak passwords or even copied fingerprints.
The BusKill USB kill switch cord is completely open source in terms of software, so one could download the program and build it at home. Unfortunately, though, the cable will not have the safety magnets in this case. Those who want a prebuilt BusKill USB cord can buy it from its developer for $99 or grab a custom magnetic breakaway cable for $49.
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Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.