Be Careful Where You Plug In Because Cheap Device Is All It Takes To Rob You

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — When your smartphone battery is on its last legs, a public cellphone charging station can be like spotting an oasis.

But as CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported Tuesday night, you may end up with much more than a charged battery after plugging in.

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Smartphone users have plenty of stories of scrambling to find a charger. And Malik Hall of Bushwick, Brooklyn said he never thinks twice about using someone else’s charger.

“No, if I need a charge I’m going to find a way to charge it, if someone’s willing to let me charge it,” he said.

But a group of computer scientists have sent out a warning: be careful where you plug in.

They presented a video at a computer hacking conference in Las Vegas last month, showing just how easy it is for hackers to alter chargers to steal your personal data.

“The target now, for hackers, is mobile devices, because everyone has them,” said Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief at Mashable.

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The small hacking device costs less than $50 to make.

“What researchers are trying to do — they’re trying to help,” Ulanoff said. “They’re trying to find these vulnerabilities before the hackers do and pushing the companies to fix and close them.”

Most viruses are programmed to stay hidden. But if you want to check your iPhone, go to “settings,” then “general,” and if more than the three usual options of “about,” “software update,” and “usage” show up, you might be in trouble.

In particular, experts advise that if you see the phrase “provisioning profile,” it means some other software is running and you should get it checked out.

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