The iPhone, iPad and iPod can be hacked using an innocent looking wall charger, according to reports.
A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology developed a charger, named Mactans, which installs malicious software onto an iDevice in less than sixty seconds.
The malware is undetectable and the user is oblivious to what's going on inside their iPhone, iPad or iPod. The charger has a BeagleBoard built into it, turning what you think is a standard charger into a harmful computer that is capable of doing quite a lot of damage. The BeagleBoard is a low-cost (£30 / $45), single-board open source computer produced by Texas Instruments to teach open source hardware and software capabilities. Once your device is plugged in, the custom software cracks the iOS code to install malware.
Apple's iOS devices have been targeted using malicious software hidden in downloadable files, which the user may unknowingly install. However, such attacks are never successful on Apple's devices, due to Apple's highly secure operating system. Most at risk are those who have jailbroken their iPhone or iPad.
However, attacks on iDevices could become more frequent if the new charger was offered to customers. The wall charger in question works with US plugs, so UK users need not be concerned, for now. We would expect Apple to fix this gateway into their software quickly.
The Georgia Institute of Technology team will attend the Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas in July to demonstrate the technology. The Black Hat Hackers research ways in which devices can be attacked so that we know what to look out for and what not to download. At the yearly conference the team announce their findings. This year they will certainly talk about the wall charger that installs malware onto an Apple device and inform Apple of how they can close the gateway into iOS. You can read more on their website.
The researchers, Chengyu Song, Billy Lau and Yeongjin Yang stated: "All users are affected, as our approach requires neither a jailbroken device nor user interaction." They added: "This hardware was selected to demonstrate the ease with which innocent-looking, malicious USB chargers can be constructed," reports Forbes.
More information will be revealed at this year's Black Hat conference starting on 27 July.
Marcelina Zwegrodzka is the author of this Apple blog.