JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Be careful where you charge your phone.
Hackers can now access your computer or phone through a charging cable called the O.MG Cable, which sold for $200 at the DEFCON hacking conference.
“As a nerd, I think they’re cool. They’re neat. They’re doing some things different than we’ve done before, but they’re not a new threat, not something people should be panicked about,” said Secure Ideas CEO Kevin Johnson, who has worked in cybersecurity for everything from government agencies to Fortune 100 companies.
A self-proclaimed nerd, Johnson can and has broken into some of the most intricate computer systems in the world -- all with permission, of course. News4Jax sat down with him to find out what makes the cord special.
“So it’s a normal cord, right? So this is a charging cable for an iPhone and all they did was replace one of the ends of the cable. So instead of being the cable that came from Apple, it has a small computer into it,” Johnson explained.
What makes the cable so unique is it’s the first of its kind to have wireless capabilities. The cable can be configured to act as a client to a nearby wireless network. And if that wireless network has an internet connection, the distance basically becomes unlimited.
Johnson emphasized while the technology may seem scary, it is nothing new.
“It’s the exact same attack that a hacker would do if they sent you a link and you clicked the link, or if they sent you a word doc and said, 'Open this,'" he said. "The only difference is instead of it being a link or a word document, it’s a cable."
Johnson said the best way to avoid this type of hack is to buy a USB Condom. Yes, that is the official name.
The USB Condom is a small and unobtrusive dongle that effectively turns any USB cable into a secure charge-only cable to allow safe recharging from untrusted USB ports.
“One place we have seen this attack similar to this one -- random charging stations,” said Johnson.
Simply avoiding situation where your phone or computer can be hacked is another solution.
“It would take nothing for me to take this device (O.MG Cable) and put it on there (charging station) and I’m attacking you, as you’re getting a free charge or whatever," Johnson said.
The best recommendation Johnson gave is to not plug anything into your computer if you don’t know where it came from.