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This charger scans for malware on your smartphone

Posting in Technology

kaprica+phone.png

Earlier this summer, researchers demonstrated that it’s possible to add malware to a smartphone by connecting it to a modified charger. Now, a mobile security startup has created a charger that attempts to do just the opposite: scan the phone for malware while its powering up. Technology Review reports.

In August, McAfee Labs reported [pdf] collecting nearly as many mobile malware samples in the first half of this year as it did during all of 2012. These were mostly “backdoor Trojans” that secretly steal information and malware that captures bank login details.

With mobile malware on the rise, plenty of mobile security apps are already on the market.

Yet Kaprica Security believes that because its Skorpion charger is physically separate from your smartphone, it is better suited to spot the kind of malware that can sit silently on the device, stealing files or login information like your bank or credit card username and password

It doesn’t rely on the phone’s operating system, memory, or processor to say whether or not it’s been compromised. This means the device isn’t vulnerable to malware that may fool virus scanners by hiding out on the phone, intercepting legitimate scan results, and telling the scanner that everything’s okay when the results would otherwise point out a security breach.

  • After it’s plugged in, the charger conducts a 2-minute preliminary scan of the phone. If everything’s in order, it shows a green light.
  • A deeper scan that looks for changes to your OS lasts for six minutes.
  • If a problem is detected, a red light flashes and the charger automatically repairs the phone by using a previous version of the operating system it has already stored.
  • No wi-fi or data network connection is needed (the analysis is done locally), but the phone’s wireless connection will be needed for downloading updates.

Kaprica plans to start selling the charger as early as this year for around $65 with an additional monthly fee for udpates. The charger will be co-branded with Belkin, the device’s manufacturer.

[Technology Review]

Image: Kaprica Security

— By on October 6, 2013, 11:40 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure