Can My E-Cig Be Hacked?
Can My E-Cig Be Hacked?
E-cigarettes have really taken off in a big way over the last few years, with many former smokers using them to help them to quit the tobacco habit and to find a healthier and safer way to get their nicotine fix. However, in recent months, concerns have been raised about whether or not vaping devices can be hacked by cybercriminals, potentially putting our personal and financial details at risk.
While it’s very tempting to simply brush off the idea as the kind of nonsense dreamed up by a paranoid mind, and although it may sound suspiciously like something out of a science fiction movie, there may actually be some truth to the idea of hacking e-cigs. In fact, it’s happened before. As long ago as 2014 there was a security breach at a large company which turned out to be due to one of the executive’s e-cigs – a dodgy Chinese brand loaded up with malware.
Here, we look at the facts to find out whether or not our data is in danger and whether or not we should all stop plugging our devices into our laptops.
How Can E-Cigs Represent a Digital Danger?
The majority of top electronic cigarettes come complete with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. When the battery runs out, it needs recharging by plugging it into a wall socket, or – and this is an increasingly popular option for those who want to keep their vape close at hand while it’s charging up – into the USB port of your computer, and that’s where the problem lie. When any USB device is attached to a computer it can attack the system – it doesn’t just have to be a flash drive, it could be any type of electronically enabled device – and today’s modern vape pens with their chipsets fit the bill.
B-Sides London Convention Demonstration
Earlier this year, at the B-Sides London convention, a security researcher by the name of Ross Bevington was able to show a fascinated audience precisely how a standard e-cig could attack a PC, either by fooling it into believing the vaping device was a mouse or keyboard, or by interfering with the network traffic. After a couple of quick tweaks to the e-cig, it was perfectly possible to issue commands or even to install a malicious program onto the victim’s computer. A sobering prospect, that leaves every vaper in a state of high paranoia about whether they’re on the brink of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Is It a Serious Risk?
Before we all panic about our bank accounts being emptied, our personal secrets being splashed across the world wide web, or our computer simply being out of action because of a virus, experts have attempted to reassure the public about the limitations that any kind of e-cig hacking could have.
E-cigs are pretty small, and can only hold a limited amount of code, so there would be no way that they could spread a major ransomware attack. Any cyber attack wouldn’t be able to be particularly elaborate since the malware required would be massively bigger than the available space on even the most advanced vape pen.
However, that’s not to say that an e-cig couldn’t be used to download large files from the internet, and therefore experts are warning everyone to make sure that their computer security is up to date with the latest security patches, complicated passwords, and a screen lock.
Of course, it goes without saying that if somebody wanders into your office and wants to plug anything into your laptop, let alone an e-cig, they’re probably up to something dodgy.