Recent research has unveiled a new set of attacks that pose a significant threat to the safety and security of wireless chargers. Dubbed as “VoltSchemer”, these attacks can lead to catastrophic consequences, ranging from frying mobile devices to heating up objects nearby to dangerous temperatures. The methodology employed by the researchers behind VoltSchemer is not only highly innovative but also slightly terrifying.

Wireless chargers operate by using electromagnetic fields to transfer energy from a coil in the charging station to a corresponding coil in the device being charged through the process of electromagnetic induction. The researchers discovered that by manipulating the voltage with a noise signal through an interposing device, they could disrupt the communication between the charger and the device, as well as circumvent the safety systems built into the charger itself.

The VoltSchemer attacks present three main forms of potential threats. The first attack leverages interference to prevent the charger from recognizing when a device is overcharging, leading to a continuous power flow at maximum rates. During testing, a Samsung S8 reached a dangerously high temperature of 170°C. The second attack bypasses Qi-charging safety standards, allowing excessive energy transfer to objects around the charger, causing temperatures to soar to 280°C in some cases, resulting in paper clips and key fobs exploding their batteries. The final attack method involves injecting voice commands into devices through transmitted noise signals emitted over a charging station’s range.

The potential consequences of these attacks are severe, with the risk of property damage and even the loss of life. The fact that electronic devices and common objects such as USB sticks and car key fobs can be compromised underscores the urgent need for manufacturers to address these vulnerabilities. While the researchers aimed to raise awareness among manufacturers, the onus lies on them to implement robust security measures to prevent such attacks in the future.

The emergence of VoltSchemer attacks serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities inherent in wireless chargers. While the convenience of wireless charging is undeniable, it is crucial for users to remain vigilant and for manufacturers to prioritize security in their designs. As technology continues to advance, so too must our measures to safeguard against potential threats. Only through proactive collaboration and innovation can we ensure a safer and more secure charging experience for all.

Hardware

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