There's A New Phone Scam To Be Wary Of: Public Charging Ports

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Checkm8 is the latest malware threat to target the once-impenetrable iPhone. The exploit infiltrates iOS devices through a USB connection and poses a significant threat to anyone using public charging stations (like those found in airports.)

Worryingly, the researcher who discovered it believes it's un-patchable. Yikes. Here's what you need to know.

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What is 'Checkm8' and how does it work?

The exploit, called Checkm8, was discovered by axi0mX and publicly disclosed to Twitter on 27 September. The researcher said both iPhones and iPads featuring the A5 chip right through to the A11 chip are vulnerable. That means the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 8 and iPhone X or, in other words, a mountain of mobile phones.

The exploit works by attacking the bootROM, the startup function on an iPhone or iPad, allowing the phone to be jailbroke, according to ThreatPost. Because that particular part of the device is read-only, it can't be patched.

Once a device has been jailbroken, hackers could install malware. In a saving grace, the vulnerability can only be exploited via a USB connection so theoretically, it could be installed in public charging ports around the world. What's not clear, however, is whether the hacking could continue after the affected phone has been removed from the USB connection.

How likely is it to infect my phone?

As with all malware alerts, the likelihood is not always extremely high but anything more than a zero per cent chance needs to be treated with caution, especially seeing as this particular exploit is un-patchable. Thankfully, axi0mX has not released the full version publicly, just a part of it so other hackers and researchers can better understand how to solve the issue.

What should I do?

The easy solution is to not use public charging ports but we all recognise that's not a good solution. Since the malware requires a direct USB connection to your phone, you could charge a power bank or a laptop and then charge your phone through that. For now, it's not publicly available so you can stress a little less but it's always good to be wary of these potential issues because the future's a scary place sometimes.

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Comments

    How about power only cables?

    What about using a "charge only" USB cable - ie a non-data USB cable?

    Also, "weary of these potential issues" should be "wary". Please use an Editor... there's certainly enough ads on the page to make some money (as well as affecting usability).

    I cheer Life Hacker for their time and research.

    Given the number of hearsay threats highlighted by LH it would be even more useful to include the number of devices already affected. This way it can help readers choose if the warning heading is warranted. During the last week 3 stories in LH on this subject, had nil devices affected, but the story heading was severe - "crying wolf" if you like.

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