Introducing BusKill – The $20 USB Dead Man’s Switch For Your Laptop

Introducing BusKill – The $20 USB Dead Man’s Switch For Your Laptop

Introducing BusKill – The $20 USB Dead Man's Switch For Your Laptop

The cable, named BusKill, was created by Michael Altfield, a software engineer and Linux sysadmin from Orlando, Florida. Michael first got his start at just age 14 when he started building quake and LAMP servers. These days, he trains journalists and activists on OpSec because he has a pretty great answer to the question, “What do you do if someone physically steals your laptop after you’ve authenticated?”

How does it work?

It works like this, the cable connects a laptop to the user. So, your USB port to something like your belt loop. In the event that a thief were to swoop in and snatch your laptop from you causing the USB cable to disconnect, it would trigger the machine to lock itself, shutdown and/or delete sensitive data. You can set the device to wipe itself completely or only wipe certain files – that’s up to you.

The World’s First.

There isn’t a single product on the market that can compete with BusKill. It really is the first hardware kill cable for laptops. There are a handful of Bluetooth options but they come with some serious flaws, one being that they often unlock the connected device after you enter in range after leaving.

If you ever access sensitive data in public places then BusKill should be your first and only choice as its the only product out there that will lock or shutdown your laptop if it’s ever separated from you.

“The app is where the magic lives.”

As Michael said in our interview with him, “The app is where the magic lives.” And that’s most definitely true.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is buskill_app_lin_arm2.gif

The app is simple, clean and easy to navigate. It does everything it needs to do. At the bottom of the screen in blue and red is a big on/off button, or in in this case a big arm/disarm button. If you need leave your laptop for any reason you would hit the “disarm” button and manually lock the screen before walking away. Now, if your device was armed and your cable was disconnected then the laptop would automatically lock or shut down after erasing itself.

Features & Specifications

  • Supports Linux, Windows, and MacOS
  • Open source GUI app with secure auto-update functionality for pulling future releases of things like new triggers
  • BusKill app has arm/disarm functionality, so you can pause BusKill trigger events before locking your screen
  • Hardware kill cable is simpler and less vulnerable to attacks (compared to radio-based solutions)
  • Strong N52 neodymium magnets reduce false-positives

Why you should be using BusKill.

BusKill is a must for anyone who values their privacy.

BusKill can be used by journalists working in foreign countries to keep their files and contacts safe in the case of an adversary attempting to get their hands on them.

BusKill can also protect tourists against snatch-and-run thieves which are common when staying in foreign countries.

BusKill is even perfect for TAILS OS users. As we know, TAILS will already trigger an emergency shutdown as soon as the USB is removed but BusKill works as an extension of this, connecting it to yourself and making it much more safe.

It can also protect private keys and cryptocurrency wallets while performing large transactions in public places.

Want to build one yourself?

If you’re feeling up to creating your own then you’re in luck. Michael has published a guide on how to create BusKill cables on his website.

To do this you’re going to need 4 things:

  1. USB flash drive (can be empty, no need to store data on it) – $4
  2. A strong carabiner keyring to attach the cable to your belt loop – $6
  3. USB magnetic adapter – $7
  4. USB cable – $3

The price for a complete BusKill cable can range from $20 to $45 depending on the configurations needed and the quality of parts.

Altfield also shares two sample udev scripts. One script will lock your device by activating the screensaver and the other will shut down your machine. If you’d like to wipe all of your data (or only select files) permanently you will need to create your own scripts.

Don’t want to miss out?

You can buy BusKill here.

To get useful updates about BusKill you can sign up here. And don’t worry, you can unsubscribe at any time.

You can also follow BusKill on various platforms:

   

Say hi to Michael Altfield on Twitter and Mastodon.