Electronic cigarettes exploited in the wild to serve malware

Pierluigi Paganini November 23, 2014

In a discussion started on the Reddit news media website it has been debated the case of a malware implanted by using electronic cigarettes connected over USB.

Hackers are able to exploit any electronic device to serve a malware of to compromise a poorly protected network, electronic cigarettes have become the latest vector to serve spread for malicious software.

Despite the idea could appear hilarious, many electronic cigarettes can be charged over USB, using a special cable or by inserting one end of the cigarette directly into a USB port.

electronic cigarettes charger

A report posted on the social news Reddit website reported a strange case occurred to a particular executive that discovered a malware in his system without immediately identify its source.

“One particular executive had a malware infection on his computer from which the source could not be determined,” reported a Reddit user “After all traditional means of infection were covered, IT started looking into other possibilities.

Investigating on the case, the man discovered that the electronic cigarettes were provided by a malware hardcoded into the charger, once the victim will connect it to the computer the malicious code will contact the C&C server to drop other malicious code and infect the system

“The made in China e-cigarette had malware hardcoded into the charger, and when plugged into a computer’s USB port the malware phoned home and infected the system.”

I have no further news regarding the authenticity of the news, anyway I consider that attack scenario plausible. We have seen recently how to turn in a hacking tool an apparently harmless USB device and in the past security experts discovered other cases in which a battery charger could be used to infect a PC or a mobile device.

The Guardian reported that opinion of Rik Ferguson, a security consultant for Trend Micro, which also consider plausible the story reported on Reddit.

“Production line malware has been around for a few years, infecting photo frames, MP3 players and more,” he says. In 2008, for instance, a photo frame produced by Samsung shipped with malware on the product’s install disc.

Referring also the recent case BadUSB, in which researchers released an attack code to reprogram USB sticks and use them as an undetectable hacking instrument, Ferguson explained that “a very strong case can be made for enterprises disabling USB ports, or at least using device management to allow only authorised devices.”

“For consumers it’s a case of running up-to-date anti-malware for the production line stuff and only using trusted devices to counter the threat.”

The Guardian reported also the opinion of the London’s Vape Emporium, Dave Goss remarked that there are no risks for vapers that buy from reliable manufacturers such as Aspire, KangerTech and Innokin.

“Any electrical device that uses a USB charger could be targeted in this way, and just about every one of these electrical devices will come from China,” Goss added.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  electronic cigarettes, hacking)

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