Did You Recently Fix a Cracked Phone Screen? Your New Display Could Be Tracking You

Did You Recently Fix a Cracked Phone Screen? Your New Display Could Be Tracking You

Did you crack your smartphone screen? Did you recently pay to replace or repair your screen? If so, then your phone could be compromised.

New research from an Israeli university has shown that attackers can install replacement hardware in your phone that tracks your every move.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev recently demonstrated the ability for hardware replacements – like controller gadgets for wireless charging, NFC readers, touchscreens, and other devices – to be outfitted with a unique chip. That chip silently manipulates communication over the device and can even take over control.

It’s the latest news from a world where attackers are getting increasingly clever about tracking smartphones. Most people know not to install suspicious apps from unknown app stores, for example, but few people think that their replacement phone screen could be the culprit.

The Special Replacement Screens Have a Malevolent Chip Embedded Inside

The Israeli report shows that it’s possible for attackers to get ahold of a victim’s smartphone or tablet, then outfit that device with a special type of replacement screen.

Even if your screen isn’t currently cracked, researchers could steal your device, outfit it with a special screen with an embedded chip, then begin tracking your movement.

The Chip Can Log Keyboard Entries, Install Apps, and Take Pictures

The chip may be small and virtually undetectable, but it can do some major damage to your life.

Researchers were able to perform a wide range of smartphone actions using the chip. They could take photos, for example, log keyboard entries, install harmful apps, ad log patterns on the device.

They could also take over a phone’s communications, sending emails to remote servers and transferring data to a third party.

The Chips Cost $10 to Produce

One of the most surprising parts about the miniscule tracking chips is that you don’t need a James Bond-sized budget to get started: the chips can be mass produced at a rate of $10.

It’s easy to see why these chips would be dangerous: someone could factory wipe a smartphone, sell it on a resale market like Craigslist, then wait to track someone’s personal information. The new smartphone user doesn’t suspect anything is amiss. The chip is difficult to detect.

Reports show that the chips actually resemble genuine chips. If you’ve opened your smartphone and peaked at the circuitry inside, then you know that it can look confusing for those without an electrical engineering degree.

Ultimately, research shows that 50% of smartphone users have dealt with a cracked screen at some point in their lives. Most users repair their phone screens without a second thought, or purchase refurbished phones from the resale market without thinking twice. This latest chip-based phone tracker, however, could make things difficult.