Recently, a team of researchers has uncovered a new set of attacks that can manipulate wireless chargers to cause significant damage to mobile devices and nearby objects. These attacks, collectively known as “VoltSchemer”, exploit vulnerabilities in the electromagnetic field-based energy transfer process of wireless chargers.

Methodology of the Attacks

The researchers found that by manipulating the voltage with a noise signal through an interposing device, they could disrupt the communication between the charger and the device being charged. This interference allowed them to override the safety systems of the charger and execute three types of potentially harmful attacks.

Potential Damage Caused

One of the attacks prevents the charger from detecting when a device is overcharging, resulting in the device being continuously supplied with power at the maximum rate. During testing, a Samsung S8 reached a scorching temperature of 170°C, posing a significant risk of damage or even combustion.

Another type of attack bypasses Qi-charging safety standards, enabling large amounts of energy to transfer to objects in close proximity to the charger. Objects such as USB sticks, SSD drives, car key fobs, and NFC chips experienced extreme temperatures, with some reaching as high as 280°C and causing significant damage.

Voice Assistant Vulnerabilities

The researchers also demonstrated a method of injecting voice commands into a device via a transmitted noise signal over the charger’s range. While this attack has limitations, such as the need to record activation commands and modify power adapter signals, it represents a potential security concern for devices with voice assistants like Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant.

The purpose of these attacks is not to facilitate malicious activities but to urge manufacturers to enhance the security features of wireless chargers and address potential misuse scenarios. The researchers have shared their findings with charger manufacturers, prompting them to reevaluate their designs and implement safeguards against such attacks in future products.

In light of these new vulnerabilities, users should exercise caution when using wireless chargers and be mindful of the potential security risks associated with these devices. While advancements in technology have made our lives more convenient, they also introduce new avenues for exploitation and manipulation. As we continue to embrace wireless charging solutions, it is essential for manufacturers to prioritize security and develop robust defenses against emerging threats. By remaining vigilant and proactive, we can mitigate the risks posed by malicious actors and ensure the safety and integrity of our devices.

Hardware

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