Malware, not charging cable, to blame for phone hack

PHOTO: Officials explain that it was a malware app, not a charging cable, that drained a man's bank account via his phone. (via The Next Web)

A man’s Facebook post sparked controversy on social media after he reported that 101,560 baht (about US$3,300) had disappeared from his bank account while he was charging his phone at a public charging station. Many began to suspect that the charging cable had been tampered with to steal data from his device, leading to widespread concerns and panic. People vowed to use only their charging cable and some discussed if it was even safe to have a banking app on your mobile device.

However, the incident was investigated and it was found that the culprit was not the charging cable, but a fake dating app called “Sweet Meet” that the man had installed on his phone. Police and the Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau warned people not to download apps from unauthorised sources. People should stick to the Google Play Store and iPhone App Store.

National Cybersecurity Committee member Prinya Hom-anek spoke out early against the panic that a charging cable could drain your bank account. He called on people to not get carried away and warned that it was more likely malicious apps or phishing links that caused the man to lose his money.

“It is impossible. When I first saw it in the news, I thought the media had gone overboard. Don’t panic about the charging cable. People should look out for malware, suspicious apps or links. Don’t rush to point fingers. First, check your phones. [People] are duped by text messages, ads or phone calls. Whatever it is, they are tricked into installing a malicious programme allowing scammers to access their phones.”

The cybersecurity expert advised people to look out for malware, suspicious apps or links, and if suspicious apps are found, to delete them and factory reset the devices.

Each day, about 10,000 people are scammed out of about 50 million baht. Prinya called for financial and tech literacy programs to educate the public. He also urged law enforcement to partner with the financial sector to beef up system security.

Phone vendors and repair shops received a deluge of concerned customer questions with people doubting the safety of their charging cables. Police said it was technically possible for a modified charging cable to pull basic information about device specs and GPS data.

But mobile phone shops thanked the police for quickly clarifying rumours that the charging cable was to blame. They likened it to an incident last September where the media rushed to blame an exploding keyboard for killing a Nonthaburi student in his classroom. It was a gun fired by accident.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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