November 25th 2014
The jury seems to be out on whether using e-cigarettes damages your health, but a new threat has emerged in that they may cause your computer to be infected with a virus.
Some e-cigarettes manufactured in China are allegedly being used to spread malicious software via the USB connection used to charge them.
According to a report in International Business Times, the computer of an executive as a large corporation in the US had been infected with malware from an undetermined source. On further investigation, it was discovered that the infection had resulted from a $5 e-cigarette purchased from eBay.
Apparently, the computer had been the subject of all relevant software updates, up to date antivirus and anti-malware protection were running and web logs scoured for irregular usage. The user then revealed that he had quit smoking two weeks previously and switched to e-cigarettes, prompting the IT department to find the solution. The e-cigarette had malware hard-coded into the charger, which downloaded the infection when plugged into the USB port.
Chief Information Security Officer at ID management firm Bit4Id, Pierluigi Paganini, blogged that e-cigarettes are the latest vector to serve the spread of malicious software, adding that hackers are able to exploit any electronic device to serve malware to a poorly protected computer or network. He recalled other "apparently harmless" USB-connected devices which had been used for hacking purposes, including Apple mobile device chargers.
– Do not connect any USB device into your computer unless you are absolutely certain of its source and integrity
– Instead, use one of the many types of mains-powered USB chargers now available on the market.
– Check out our advice page on viruses and spyware.