BadPower Vulnerability In Fast Chargers Might Make Phones Halt And Catch Fire

A few days ago, Chinese researchers from technology giant Tencent released a paper outlining a firmware vulnerability in several types of fast charger power bricks (translated). The attack is known as BadPower, and it works by altering the default parameters in the firmware of fast chargers to deliver more power to devices than they can handle, which can cause them to overheat, melt, or catch fire.

The ancient and basic USB charging spec provides 0.5 A at 5 V, which is equal to 2.5 W. In theory, that’s all you’ll ever get from those types of chargers. But the newer generation of chargers are different. When you plug your phone into a fast charger, it negotiates a voltage and charging speed with your phone before passing it any power.

Fast chargers can push power at 20 V or more to speed up the charging process, depending on the charger and connected device. If the phone doesn’t do fast charging, it will default to the 5 V standard. Researchers claim the BadPower attack is capable of harming devices whether or not they include a fast charging feature. When a capable device is connected, the charger will still negotiate for 5V, but instead give 20V and wreak havoc.

In the demo after the break, one of the team uses a malicious device disguised as a phone to push the BadPower firmware change to a fast charger that’s hooked up to a voltmeter. Before the attack, the charger gives 5V. After the attack, it gives 5V for a few seconds before jumping up near 20V. Then they connect the now-dirty charger to two identical illuminated magnifying glasses. In one the chip lets the smoke monster out rather violently, and the chips of the other emit sparks.

The researchers tested 35 of the 200+ fast charging bricks currently on the market and found that 18 of them were vulnerable to BadPower, including 11 that can be exploited through the charging port itself. They believe the issue is fixable with a firmware update.

What is not available is enough information to verify this research, or a list of brands/models that are vulnerable. Researchers say the findings were submitted to the China National Vulnerability Database (CNVD) on March 27th, so the absence of this information may be a product of manufacturers needing more time to patch the vulnerability.

What do you think? We say halfway decent chargers shouldn’t be open to firmware attacks from the devices they are charging. And any halfway decent phone should have built-in electrical protection, right?

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Supercon Badge Hardware Hacking: Here’s What To Bring

Hackaday Superconference is just a week away (precious few tickets remain), a celebration of all things Hackaday, which naturally includes creative projects making the most of their hardware. Every attendee gets a platform for hacking in the form of the conference badge.

To make the most of your badge hacking fun, plan ahead so you will have the extra components and the tools you need. At the most basic, bring along a serial to USB cable and a PIC programmer. These are common and if you don’t own them, ask around and you will likely be able to borrow them. Now is also the time to put in a parts order for any components you want to use but don’t have on hand!

The badge is hackable without any extras, but it’s designed for adding hardware and hacking the firmware. We’re excited to see what you can do with it. We gave an overview of this retro themed pocket computer a few days ago, today we’re inviting you to exploit its potential for your hardware hacks.

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Car Security Experts Dump All Their Research And Vulnerabilities Online

[Charlie Miller] and [Chris Valasek] Have just released all their research including (but not limited to) how they hacked a Jeep Cherokee after the newest firmware updates which were rolled out in response to their Hacking of a Cherokee in 2015.

FCA, the Corp that owns Jeep had to recall 1.5 million Cherokee’s to deal with the 2015 hack, issuing them all a patch. However the patch wasn’t all that great it actually gave [Charlie] and [Chris] even more control of the car than they had in the first place once exploited. The papers they have released are a goldmine for anyone interesting in hacking or even just messing around with cars via the CAN bus. It goes on to chronicle multiple hacks, from changing the speedometer to remotely controlling a car through CAN message injection. And this release isn’t limited to Jeep. The research covers a massive amount of topics on a number of different cars and models so if you want to do play around with your car this is the car hacking bible you have been waiting for.

Jeep are not too happy about the whole situation. The dump includes a lot of background for vehicles by multiple manufactureres. But the 2015 hack was prominent and has step by step instructions. Their statement on the matter is below.

Under no circumstances does FCA condone or believe it’s appropriate to disclose ‘how-to information’ that would potentially encourage, or help enable hackers to gain unauthorized and unlawful access to vehicle systems.

We anticipate seeing an increasing number of security related releases and buzz as summer approaches. It is, after all, Network Security Theatre season.

PSP Firmware 5.00 Hacked

We remember the halcyon days of firmware 1.00 for the PSP. It was wide open to run any code you wanted. Once the handheld game console was released outside Japan, Sony locked it down and began an arms race to prevent any sort of homebrew usage of the device. Nearly four years later and we’re at firmware 5.00. The hackers are on top of their game though. It’s only been a couple days since the official release and a custom firmware has already been published. Sony has traditionally supported development on their home consoles and we hope they’ll take that approach on their next portable instead of this stupid back and forth.

[via Gizmodo]