My phone is rooted and has USB debugging enabled, because I do some development on it. In a moment of pre-caffeinated mental weakness, I plugged it into a cheap Chinese power bank.

The phone promptly stopped responding to touch input until I hard-rebooted. This reminded me that malicious chargers are apparently a thing. My google-fu hasn't shown any in the wild, I have no other symptoms, and MalwareBytes is giving me the all clear... so I'm not particularly worried.

Generally speaking though, how would you go about detecting a malicious charger?

  • Charger can't be malicious. Powerbank maybe, but I don't see why it will broke your touchscreen. Maybe the problem is because it is as you say cheap chinesse powerbank. – Једноруки Крстивоје Sep 19 '16 at 18:29
  • Malicious chargers have been implemented, and were demonstrated at BlackHat 2013. That's what the second link is about. – Autumn Sep 19 '16 at 19:21
  • Honestly, this is likely just a very poor quality charger or a malfunctioning one. I have seen this behaviour with extremely "budget" chargers in the past, as soon as it connects to the device the touchscreen is seemingly "locked out"... It isn't a malicious charger, just a crappy one. The most recent one I have seen did this with any HTC or Samsung device connected to it, but Moto devices had no problem at all. – acejavelin Sep 19 '16 at 22:09
  • Well then, maybe but just maybe you can rid of malware by formating all the partitions even sdcard from TWRP recovery, and then imstall custom ROM or stock. But as I said it's probably just crappy powerbank not malicious. – Једноруки Крстивоје Sep 19 '16 at 23:59

You can't. The only real world way to detect if a charger is malicious is to plug it into a device that it could possibly infect. Yes, I'm sure with some forensics equipment you could technically check for this kind of thing, but it just isn't practical.

Instead, only charge your device with chargers you can trust. If you see a USB charging port, or any kind of device that is supposed to charge your phone and you aren't sure what the other side is connected to (such as in airports where there are USB ports) don't use it.

It's more of a game of paranoia than detection. I wish there was a better alternative as much as you do.

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