Student used ‘USB Killer’ device to destroy $58,000 worth of college computers

A former student of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York, has pled guilty to charges that he destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of campus computers using a USB device designed to instantly overwhelm and fry their circuitry. The plea was announced Tuesday by the Department of Justice, FBI, and Albany Police Department.

Vishwanath Akuthota, the former student, now faces up to 10 years in prison (with up to three years of supervision after release) and a fine totaling up to $250,000. He was arrested and taken into custody in North Carolina on February 22nd, just over a week after he went on a spree of inserting the “USB Killer” device into 66 of Saint Rose’s computers around various locations on campus. Such devices can be easily and freely purchased online and can overload the surge protection in many PCs.

Akuthota will pay back the college for the damaged computers

Akuthota, 27, apparently made video recordings of himself inserting the malicious USB device into the computers and said “I’m going to kill this guy” as the PCs were overloaded and permanently ruined. So it’s fair to say the FBI and APD had all the evidence they needed. In total, Akuthota caused $58,471 worth of damage. As part of his guilty plea, he has agreed to pay back that amount to the college, a small private school in New York’s capital city. The Verge reached out to The College of Saint Rose for a statement on today’s news, but a spokesperson said the college had been asked by law enforcement to refrain from commenting.

Akuthota is a citizen of India who is in the US on a visa, having earned a master’s degree in business from Saint Rose in 2017. According to Albany’s Times Union, he had also pursued a computer information systems degree. Akuthota appeared in one of the college’s videos on Facebook in 2016, saying he ultimately hoped to become an entrepreneur. When asked why he had chosen Saint Rose for his degree, he said, “I see there are lots of opportunity in the college which will prepare you for the better future, where I can learn and apply in my life.” The original complaint against Akuthota didn’t reveal any motive for his actions.

Personal aside: The College of Saint Rose is my alma mater. I know you’ve probably never heard of it, and I can’t imagine I’ll ever be writing about it again here at The Verge, so allow me to say hello to students working on the school newspaper, The Chronicle, and my old journalism professor, Dr. Cailin Brown.


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