Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a proof-of-concept charger that’s capable of installing malware on iOS devices. The tweaked bit of hardware invisibly installs the tweaked software without any jailbreaking necessary. Simply plugging an iOS device into the hacked charger is enough—a user doesn’t even need to go through an onscreen prompts to execute it.
Details are sparse right now, but the researchers have plans to show off their findings at a security conference next month. The hack, according to the researchers, is designed around an open-source single-board computer known as BeagleBoard. “This hardware was selected to demonstrate the ease with which innocent-looking, malicious USB chargers can be constructed,” the researchers explained.
Forbes notes that stuffing a BeagleBoard into a three-inch square made to mimic an Apple charger would be a difficult task. With that said, the chargers created by the researchers might be an obvious giveaway something is up, but that’s not necessarily the point. The mere fact malware can be installed so easily is alarming—it only takes a minute for the malware to be installed.
The researchers have allegedly contacted Apple about the hack, but have yet to hear a response. The current exploit as it exists now might not be much of a threat to you and I, but trusting someone on the street for a quick charge could lead to problems. And even though the chargers themselves aren’t necessarily Apple-like in their appearance, the researchers claim more effort can be put into better mimicking the current all-white chargers.
The security conference isn’t until the end of July, so Apple might respond by then. The chances of this becoming a particularly widespread issue are slim, but the simplicity is definitely alarming. Better start keeping a charger on you at all times.