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This New Charger Checks To See If Your Phone’s Been Hacked

As your smartphone becomes more important, it also becomes a more appealing target for hackers

Photo: closari

The increasing ubiquity of smartphones has made these little computers an appealing target for hackers. Most phones operate on one of the two main mobile operating systems—Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android—and Android’s open nature, along with the ease with which it lets you download off-market software, has made it hackers’ favored target.

This isn’t a huge problem, if you’re careful. But, if you are downloading a lot of software outside of the official channels, you may be opening the door to your phone’s innards to malware. Quartz:

About 15% of the apps flagged by Verify Apps are commercial spyware, a diverse set of monitoring apps that range from tracking internet behavior to improve advertising to the very malicious keyloggers that collect personal information entered by the user and report it to the malware creator.

Many software hacks and bugs rely on code that prevents the computer’s built-in security from detecting the problem, either by tricking the anti-virus software into thinking the hack is harmless or by somehow masking it from view. To combat this kind of attack, says MIT Technology Review, the company Kaprica Security has designed a mobile charger that will scan your phone for malware while juicing its battery. Tech Review:

For the user, the charger is simple: plug it into the wall, and plug the phone into the charger. The charger then conducts a quick preliminary scan of the phone; if all is in order, it shows a green light.

If you leave the phone plugged into the charger, it will reboot at a time you’ve preconfigured—3 a.m., for instance—and start a more thorough process that sends the phone’s operating-system files to the charger for an analysis that takes about four minutes.

…If a problem is detected, the charger will alert you with a red light, and—depending on the user’s preferences—the charger can automatically repair the phone by using a previous “good” version of the operating system it has already stored.

The idea behind the charger is that, being independent of the phone, the charger wouldn’t be fooled by the tricks meant to confuse the phone’s protections.

That being said, we can’t help but be a little bit nervous about a company with a name like Kaprica Security. What if the charger is actually just paving the way for the Cylon invasion?

More from Smithsonian.com:

Smartphone as Doctor
When a Smartphone Becomes a Wallet
Your Smartphone Could Someday Warn You That Earthquake Waves Are About to Hit

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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