Is there any virus that can cause physical damage?

  • Like damaging a chip on the motherboard, increase the fan's speed till something explodes, or anything similar to that. I am not an IT guru, but I never came across a malicious code that couldn't be erased using a certain software, nor a virus that caused something beyond corrupting the OS.

    I have already checked this question prior to posting this one, the whole discussion is about corrupting the firmware of a hard drive, that's not what I am referring to

    I don't know how far down you read, but several of the answers specifically discuss causing failure by inducing excessive read/write operations.

    The top answer to this shows that it definitely was not a duplicate of the question about hard drives. I got here wondering if a virus could start my computer on fire.

    hypothetically it would be possible to overwrite the firmware and cause one or more of the components to go into a Thermal Runaway ... however there are multiple systems in place to protect against this (though most are aimed at protection against manufacturer defect)

    I wonder if it would be possible to brick a computer by overwriting `/dev/nvram` over and over, since modern computers usually map that to flash memory and not true RAM. With UEFI systems that store variables in the NVRAM, I imagine damaging it would be fatal.

  • In older times, virus could be damaging to the hardware in the following way:

    • Playing with video signal rates, so as to exceed the tolerance ranges of CRT monitors. Post-1995 CRT monitors included safety mechanisms (and LCD panels are inherently protected), but older monitors have died that way.

    • Reflashing the BIOS. This does not permanently kill the hardware, but resurrecting it can be hard; e.g. some motherboards can be reflashed after such a junk flashing only by reading the BIOS from... a floppy disk. Who has a floppy disk nowadays ?

    • Causing overheating by blocking fans. This works only when the fan speed is controlled from the motherboard itself. However, hardware which allows for a variable fan rotation speed also includes thermometers, and safety circuits which forcibly cut off power in case of overheating, before permanent damage occurs.

      Though I know of a motherboard that did melt an ethernet card once (the chip turned completely black and the plastic partially collapsed). Strangely enough, the motherboard was fine afterwards.

    • Laptop batteries can be permanently damaged from software.

    However, wanton destruction is often deemed useless by virus writers, who now prefer silently installation and remote control. Modern virus try hard not to damage the computer.

    "Modern virus Try hard *not* to damage the computer" is a fact. Modern cybercriminal follow the same religion. But the possibilities of physical damages are nonetheless much larger than at the era of CRT monitors. Safety mechanisms are… firmware or software and can be reprogrammed.

    See also Win95.CIH (a.k.a. Chernobyl) -

    Hard Drive Killer?

    Many BIOSes store a recovery copy in the read-only boot block for rollback.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM

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