killer poke

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The Commodore PET 2001, a personal computer released in 1977 that was susceptible to killer pokes

killer + poke (the storage of a value in a memory address, typically to modify the behaviour of a computer program).



killer poke (plural killer pokes)

  1. (computing) Any method of inducing physical harm to a computer or peripheral by software means, especially by inserting invalid values into a control register or by building up harmonic oscillations in a hard disk, etc.
    • [1996, Eric S[teven] Raymond, comp., The New Hacker's Dictionary, 3rd edition, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, →ISBN, page 270:
      killer poke n. A recipe for inducing hardware damage on a machine via insertion of invalid values (see poke) into a memory-mapped control register; used esp. of various fairly well-known tricks on bitty boxes without hardware memory management (such as the IBM PC and Commodore PET) that can overload and crash analog electronics in the monitor.]
    • 1999 November 9, Markus Wandel, “Blowing Processors”, in alt.folklore.computers, Usenet[1], message-ID <809ej1$2ip$>:
      [F]rom what I recall the "killer poke" was POKE 59458,62 [] [W]hat it did was change an I/O line from input to output. The line connected to a signal related to vertical sync. The ROM routines that wrote to the display would wait until it was in vertical blank to avoid the "video snow" that otherwise resulted. The killer POKE would fool it into seeing the display always in vertical blank so it would write whenever. [] That this stressed the electronics was clear from the fact that the brief stint in the "killer" mode (a fraction of a second) often produced a bright flash followed by a dimmed and shrunk video display that would re-expand to its former self over the course of two seconds or so. Of course the later hardware also had the video snow thing fixed and the ROM no longer checked for vertical retrace, so the killer POKE disappeared.
    • 2015 March 9, Danny Bradbury, “Should we hack the hackers?: Western companies are being fleeced for hundreds of millions by cybercriminals. Is it time to give them a dose of their own medicine?”, in The Guardian[2], London, archived from the original on 6 March 2016:
      Is frying someone's laptop remotely with a killer poke even possible? Even if it is, it may not achieve the desired effect, says Dave Dittrich, a computer specialist at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory, who is a specialist in the topic. "How expensive is it to buy a new one? $500? Cyber is not the same as physical when it comes to disabling 'weapons' to remove a threat."

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