Journalists at Ecuadorian news outlets have received USB thumb drives rigged with military grade explosive charges. According to the Associated Press, at least five booby-trapped USB flash drives were sent to journalists across Ecuador. Thankfully, only one of the devices actually exploded, and it caused no injuries. A suspect has been detained for questioning.
Lenin Artieda, a journalist at the Ecuavisa news organization, was the unfortunate recipient of the USB flash drive that actually exploded. Artieda opened an envelope on Monday morning and fished out a nondescript USB drive. He plugged it into his computer and it exploded, destroying the PC.
Neither Artieda, nor anyone else in the room, were injured by the blast. Later investigations by the authorities revealed that only half of the explosive charge within the USB flash drive case had ignited — so the journalist and others in the office at the time of the explosion were lucky, in a way.
🔴 #AtentadoEcuavisa | Según el teniente coronel de la Policía, Xavier Chango, quien es jefe nacional de Criminalística, señaló: “Si es que se hubiera activado por completo, el daño pudo haber sido superior al que encontramos”.Más detalles 📲 https://t.co/befPnjGJWw pic.twitter.com/RHBCWiXYDQMarch 20, 2023
Artieda is well known for his news coverage of crime and corruption. He has obviously ruffled the feathers of one or more nefarious Ecuadorian individuals to receive this unwelcome attention. Government officials are calling the USB drive mail bombs domestic terrorism.
The explosive packed into the USB drives is thought to have been RDX. RDX is a high explosive that's more powerful than TNT and has no discernible smell or taste, and was widely used in WWII. You've probably heard of RDX's plasticized form — it's the explosive agent found in C-4.
Other news outlets in Ecuador were similarly targeted. According to the AP report, Teleamazonas, Radio Exa, and TC Televisión also received devices but they failed to explode. The report doesn't discuss why these devices failed to explode, but perhaps the USB ports they were plugged into didn't offer a high enough voltage to detonate the RDX. Authorities also intercepted one explosive USB device before it reached its destination.
Computer users should always beware of unsolicited, found, or left-behind USB drives. Even if they aren't rigged with explosives, plugging in an unknown USB drive is risky — they could house viruses, such as spyware, keyloggers, Trojans etc. There are also USB killer sticks, which are widely and cheaply available and are not very friendly to electronic devices.
I mean, did someone mail them at their address ? Did they knew beforehand that they would be getting a USB drive ? If YES, then there has to be the sender's name/address and the courier name as applicable as well, IMO ?
If the answer is NO, then why did the journalist insert and used the USB drive in the first place, if it was given/came from an unknown source ? What were the contents of the USB drive, and why was it sent to him/them ?
Sorry, this is a bit confusing to me, or it lacks some details, OR, I totally fail to understand some part of this news.
But I'm assuming these journalists/reporters knew that they would be getting USB drivers beforehand, which had data pertaining to their field of work (reporting and publishing some news for instance) ?
Yeah, you do have a point and that seems reasonable as well. It could be that someone just sending some tips to the news outlet, but whether this is done on a daily basis/routine or it's the trend in the news media to receive tips from anonymous sources, I'm not quite sure about this.
But why should the media/news agency trust an anonymous source for a tip in the first place ? But anyways, Ecuadorian police might divulge more details later on, as to what exactly transpired.
But I'm certain that some known inside news source/media employee might be involved in this, so that's why the reporter trusted the USB drive, imo.
Of course, a random USB should be plugged into a fully disconnected sacrificial system. This is to prevent spreading malware.
(seen elsewhere - Was the software on the USB Pop_OS?)