The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Can Charging Cell Phone Take Down an IT System?

Georgia Tech Report Suggests Such a Possibility

Can plugging in your mobile phone to an outlet to recharge the device bring down an IT system? Perhaps so.

That possibility is suggested in a new report from Georgia Tech's Emerging Cyberthreats Report 2012.

According to the report, mobile devices are a new vector to attacking networks and critical systems. One source in the private industry, who requested anonymity, worries that mobile phones will serve as the new onramp to plant malware on more secure devices. The report quotes the source as saying:

"Let's say you've secured a process control system within a nuclear facility and there's no direct connection between that system and the corporate network. Even with such security measures in place, someone who just needs to charge his phone can introduce malware as soon as it's plugged into a computer within that location."

The report suggests mobile phones are displacing flash drives as the primary portable device to spread malware to otherwise protected systems. As the industry insider told the report's authors:

"I can see a sophisticated attacker writing code to exploit wireless connectivity technology that subsequently plants malware on a mobile phone. Now that phone is programmed to install a dangerous payload as soon as it connects to a targeted system."

Scary, isn't it?

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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