May 11, 2021

Is there a danger oh hackers making computers go on fire by overvolting hardware?

Home Forums Is there a danger oh hackers making computers go on fire by overvolting hardware?

This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  VirtualMage 3 weeks ago.

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  • #385119


    I read some meme about how hackers can make .ex robots choke you, so that made me wonder if hackers could actually cause physical harm like in movies and games.

    The most realistic scenario I came up with is if someone made a computer turn on by itself at the middle of the night when no one is there to stop it, to run some stress program that would make the cpu and gpu work at 100% and to overvolt them, which may(?) cause a fire, which can then further do real damage.

    Is something like that possible and were there ever such cases?

  • #385120


    All modern hardware has low-level thermal protection that no software can affect. They usually first throttle down and continue working at reduced performance, and if heat still rises they shut down.

    So this could be possible on older hardware, but not likely on anything recent.

  • #385121


    There used to be little hacks like this before hardware had protections. You could overvolt or overclock a CPU and without any sensor to tell the CPU to throttle itself it would just keep running until it melted. Old tape relay computers could be made to toggle switches so quickly until they created friction heat.

    Modern computers can still be damaged today to a lesser extent. Devices that have been compromised to be part of someone’s mining network might run at full power for long periods of time until the user comes home to find their laptop surface is a pleasantly scorching 60**°** C or what have you.

  • #385122


    Probably not possible without physical access to the computer. I remember some old techniques espoused in the 90’s that involved crushing up match heads and creating a paste out of them to stick to 3.5 floppies and CDs, which would then combust after being inserted, but I never tested the method myself, and it seems rather silly when you already have physical access to the device.

  • #385123


    Outside specialty situations, you’re likely OK (see STUXNET)

    Some malware will peg your CPU, like some coin miners. It can be argued that this is damage.

    Malware that just blows up a computer is largely lazy writing hacker fiction.

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