Hacked Wireless Chargers Could Melt Smartphones and Cause Fires, Researchers Show

Florida University researchers have found that wireless chargers could be exploited destructively. In their study, they demonstrated potential manipulation or destruction of devices via wireless charging units.

The researchers created a method they dubbed VoltSchemer. This is a suite of innovative assaults enabling culprits control over readily available wireless chargers. The attack involves altering the output voltage of the device’s power supply to cause electromagnetic interference, potentially leading to gadget damage or prompting voice commands on smartphones.

Demonstration Image

Protocol Manipulation and Destructive Consequences

Qi standard chargers, during operation, utilize a communication protocol ensuring safe charging — ceasing when the consumer’s battery is fully charged. However, this protocol can be manipulated, thereby disabling protective mechanisms, potentially damaging or destroying the charging device. For instance, a Samsung Galaxy S8 in the lab warmed up to 81°C. Alongside smartphones, the assault also threatens other metallic items that might find themselves on the surface of the charging device. Clips on a notebook heated up to 280°C, flash drives started melting, and an overheated SSD lost data.

Charging Device Image

Limited Scope of Attack and Steps for Prevention

Fortunately, executing such assault isn’t straightforward and physical access to the charging unit is required. However, the study authors have already connected with manufacturers to tackle this issue in the future.

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