The Dangers of Wireless Charger Manipulation

Wireless chargers have become a staple in many households, providing a convenient way to charge devices without the hassle of cords. However, recent research has revealed a dark side to this seemingly harmless technology. A team of researchers has discovered a new set of attacks that can manipulate wireless chargers, posing serious risks to both devices and nearby objects.

The attacks, named VoltSchemer, utilize a method that involves manipulating the voltage with a noise signal through an interposing device. By interfering with the communication between the charger and the device being charged, the researchers were able to uncover three forms of potential attack. The first attack involves preventing the charger from detecting when a device is overcharging, leading to dangerous overheating. In testing, a Samsung S8 reached a scorching temperature of 170°C, highlighting the severe risks posed by this manipulation.

Another type of VoltSchemer attack bypasses safety standards, allowing large amounts of energy to transfer to objects near the charger. This could result in USB sticks, SSD drives, car key fobs, and even paper clips reaching dangerously high temperatures. The researchers observed a key fob exploding its own battery due to the excessive heat generated. The potential for such attacks to cause catastrophic damage is a cause for concern, underscoring the importance of addressing these vulnerabilities.

Additionally, the researchers were able to inject voice commands into a device using a transmitted noise signal emitted over a charging station’s range. While they could perform tasks like initiating phone calls or launching apps, the complexity of executing this attack limits its practicality. However, the proof of concept still raises alarm over the potential for unauthorized access through voice assistants like Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant.

Although the researchers’ findings serve as a wake-up call for manufacturers, the purpose of their testing is not to empower attackers but to prompt greater consideration of security measures. By sharing their discoveries with charging station manufacturers, the hope is that steps will be taken to address these vulnerabilities in future designs. It is essential for the industry to prioritize security and safeguard consumers from the risks posed by wireless charger manipulation.

While wireless chargers offer convenience and efficiency, the VoltSchemer attacks highlight the potential dangers associated with this technology. As consumers, it is crucial to remain vigilant and ensure the security of our devices. By raising awareness of these vulnerabilities, we can work towards a safer technological landscape. As we continue to embrace wireless charging, let us also prioritize the protection of our devices and personal safety.


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