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BadPower hack can be a real firestarter




Fast Chargers help with our ever-increasing reliance on our smartphones by minimizing their downtime. But they are not only more powerful than the older chargers they replace: they are also smarter. And this, according to security researchers from China, has proved to be a problem.

The fast charger needs to communicate with your device

Unlike “classic” chargers, fast chargers communicate with the device they are charging to monitor their battery’s condition and temperature continuously. So, they aren’t constantly pushing the same high amount of electricity into the cell. Instead, their performance fluctuates depending on the battery’s state.

As the Chinese security researchers found, BadPower is a new attack that can taint fast chargers’ firmware. It alters their charging parameters, making them deliver more voltage than the device can take. At best, this can lead to device damage. At worst, it can melt your smartphone’s components, and start a fire.

Out of the 35 fast chargers they tested, the researchers found that 18 were vulnerable. What’s worse, though, is that out of 34 different fast charging chips, they found that 18 aren’t upgradable.

Thankfully, it seems like no one has taken advantage of the vulnerability up to now. Thus, for the time being, we are probably safe.

Do note, though, that it’s always suggested you never leave any charging device unattended.