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3D Printable BusKill Prototypes

We're happy to announce that we've had good progress on the design of the 3D printable BusKill USB-A magnetic breakaway couplers this year!

3D Printable BusKill (2023.04)

While we do what we can to allow at-risk folks to purchase BusKill cables anonymously, there is always the risk of interdiction.

We don’t consider hologram stickers or tamper-evident tape/crisps/glitter to be sufficient solutions to supply-chain security. Rather, the solution to these attacks is to build open-source, disassembleable, and easily inspectable hardware whose integrity can be validated without damaging the device and without sophisticated technology.

Actually, the best way to confirm the integrity of your hardware is to build it yourself. Fortunately, printing your own circuit boards, microcontroller, or silicon has a steeper learning curve than a BusKill cable -- which is essentially just a USB extension cable with a magnetic breakaway in the middle.

Mitigating interdiction via 3D printing is one of many reasons that Melanie Allen has been diligently working on prototyping a 3D-printable BusKill cable this year. In this article, we hope to showcase her progress and provide you some OpenSCAD and .stl files so you can experiment with building your own and help test and improve our designs.

ⓘ Note: This post is adapted from its original article on Melanie Allen's blog.

Developing the Prototype

Screenshot of a GitHub Issue
The original issue posted in GitHub

Ideation

A few years ago, Michael asked me if I was interested in developing a 3D-printed case for the magnetic breakaway. He enumerated the following design requirements:

  • The case should be as small as possible, because it shouldn’t block neighboring ports, nor sit heavy in the port causing it to bump into objects on the desk.
  • The case should be able to be dissembled, so that people can make sure it isn’t tampered with. It shouldn’t be glued together.
  • In order to avoid using glue, we had a factory specially manufacture some hexagonal shaped magnets that we believed would be able to sit inside the printed part without glue.
  • Much like USB breakaways that are designed to prevent wear and tear on ports, the case would house a pogo pins and magnets, and a USB.
Photo of the design on a napkin
Napkin drawing, when you know its serious

However, over the past years' iterations, we adjusted the requirements:

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BusKill Now Shipping!

We're excited to announce that our first production run of BusKill cables is now in-stock in our distribution center. Existing orders are going out now, and new orders will ship immediately.

[BusKill] Our Dead Man Switch Magnetic Breakaway cables are Now Shipping!

The first BusKill prototype was born in 2017. It gained international popularity in 2020 when Michael Altfield described how to build your own BusKill cable. After extensive effort and with the help of several contributors, a Linux hacker's DIY cable got a user-friendly, cross-platform GUI.

When the only USB-A magnetic breakaway coupler on the market became out of stock and EOL'd, we raised $18,507 on CrowdSupply in early 2022 to manufacture our own injection-molded cable. One thousand logistics challenges later, Mouser started shipping BusKill cables to our backers in October 2022.

The assembled BusKill cable is plugged-into the USB-A port of a laptop

Now that the hardware is out the door, we're hard at work on new features for the BusKill app. Our top goal is to add a soft-shutdown trigger to the existing lock-screen trigger. At the time of writing, this is functional on Linux and Windows. We're just working out the kinks of privilege escalation on MacOS.

To be notified when we've added the soft-shutdown trigger to the BusKill app, you can signup for our newsletter.


We did our best to test BusKill across the three target platforms, but the wide spread of OS versions does leave room for error. If you happen to find a bug with BusKill, please let us know.

If you don't have a BusKill cable yet, you can buy one here on this website or build your own. And for the makers out there, checkout the progress on our 3D printable BusKill magnetic breakaway coupler 🙂

You can also buy a BusKill cable with bitcoin, monero, and other altcoins directly from our BusKill Store

Bitcoin Accepted Here

Monero Accepted Here

BusKill Demos (Windows, MacOS, Linux, TAILS, QubesOS)

Video Demo

Watch the below video to see a demonstration of BusKill running on all of the below-listed systems.

Transparency is important. As we launch our crowdfunding campaign (making the BusKill cable available for purchase for the first time), we wanted to provide a clear video demo showing the cable in-use in all tested platforms:

Windows

BusKill was tested to work in Windows 10.


Visit docs.buskill.in for instructions on how you can build your own BusKill cable and download the BusKill app for Windows.

Or you can buy a BusKill kit with the BusKill Windows app pre-installed on the the included USB drive.

MacOS

BusKill was tested to work in MacOS 10.15 (Catalina).


Visit docs.buskill.in for instructions on how you can build your own BusKill cable and download the MacOS .dmg release.

Or you can buy a BusKill kit with the BusKill MacOS app pre-installed on the the included USB drive.

Linux

BusKill was tested to work in Ubuntu Linux.


Visit docs.buskill.in for instructions on how you can build your own BusKill cable and download the Linux .AppImage release.

Or you can buy a BusKill kit with the BusKill Linux app pre-installed on the the included USB drive.

TAILS

BusKill was tested to work with TAILS (The Amnesic Incognito Live System).


While you could use the BusKill Linux .AppImage release with a second USB drive while using TAILS, the recommended solution for security-critical users is to just use the BusKill cable in-line with the TAILS live USB drive. This takes advantage of

  1. The BusKill cable's magnetic breakaway along with
  2. The TAILS built-in emergency shutdown

Visit docs.buskill.in for instructions on how you can build your own BusKill cable to use with TAILS.

Or you can buy a BusKill cable to support the BusKill project.

QubesOS

BusKill was also tested to work with QubesOS.


Due to the design of QubesOS (dom0, sys-usb, etc), the BusKill GUI app does not support QubesOS. Instead, QubesOS support is implemented using the qubes-rpc and a set of scripts stored in sys-usb and dom0.

For more information on how to use BusKill in QubesOS, see our BusKill guide for QubesOS.

Visit docs.buskill.in for instructions on how you can build your own BusKill cable to use with QubesOS.

Or you can buy a BusKill cable to support the BusKill project.


Quicker Emergency Shutdown for TAILS

Are you a security researcher, journalist, or intelligence operative that works in TAILS--exploiting TAILS' brilliant incognito & amnesic design that forces all of your network traffic through the Tor anonymity network? Great! This post is for you.

TAILS Logo
TAILS: The most secure OS available

TAILS is amnesic; it's designed to leave no trace of the fact that it was used on your laptop. But what if someone literally steals your laptop while you're working with classified information in TAILS? Not only will they get access to all of the tabs open in your Tor Browser (gaining access to your accounts for any sites you're currently logged into, gaining the ability to impersonate and send messages as you, etc), but they'd also be able to access the contents of your decrypted persistent drive!

Let's say you're a journalist, activist, whistleblower or a human rights worker in an oppressive regime. Or an intelligence operative behind enemy lines doing research or preparing a top-secret document behind a locked door. What do you do to protect your data, sources, or assets when the secret police suddenly batter down your door? How quickly can you actually act to shutdown your laptop and shred your RAM and/or persistent volume?

What if you had a magnetic trip-wire tied from your body to your laptop such that it would trigger the TAILS emergency shutdown if the cable got disconnected by you jumping to your feet or falling off your chair at the sudden bang of your front door being reduced to splinters?


Using a BusKill cable with your TAILS drive can help shave off those precious seconds needed to trigger an emergency shutdown that will help keep you, your data, and your contacts safe.

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