If in Russia, Putin’s opponents are prone to accidents involving open windows, in Ecuador retaliation against troublesome journalists comes in the form of USB sticks that explode when used.
Perhaps one rule that should be observed regardless of geographic location, social status or profession is that USB sticks received in a mailbox or envelope should go straight to the trash. Preferably, not the one at home. In the “happiest” case, such a device can compromise your PC with aggressive malware and spyware (e.g. ransomware), leaving you to pay through the nose to get your data back. In the even more unfortunate scenario, the envelope you receive can be a trap in itself, containing anything from powdered poison to explosive devices designed to maim you.
In this case, the attacks on Ecuadorian journalists are primarily aimed at intimidating them, but also at mutilating them in a way that prevents them from continuing their journalistic work.
Sent simultaneously to various journalists and media outlets in Ecuador, the USB sticks loaded with explosives are triggered as soon as they are fed into the USB port. Although not very powerful, the explosive charge is sufficient to cause serious hand injuries, and the purpose of the threatening messages sent afterwards is to discourage uncomfortable journalistic investigations.
Analyzing devices that were not used, or simply did not explode, investigators revealed the use of a variation of the C-4 (trinitrotoluene) explosive called RDX.
Although the Ecuadorian government publicly condemns the incidents, including issuing a statement “categorically rejecting any form of violence committed against journalists and media institutions”, investigations to find the perpetrator of the campaign against journalists have so far yielded no results.
It would certainly not be the first time that USB devices have been successfully used in attacks, as there are other famous cases where selected victims have completely ignored absolutely banal rules, such as not opening an unsolicited message (email), possibly received from an unknown sender.