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Santa Brought You New Electronics? Make Sure They’re Not Infected

Did you hear about the man who plugged an e-cigarette charger into his computer and infected it with malware? There’s no punch line, just the eye-opening story of how far crooks will go to infect computers to steal your information or cause mischief.

The man worked at a large corporation with a sophisticated IT team, according to a post on Reddit, which first reported the incident. After IT confirmed that the malware didn’t infect his computer through the web or via an email, they simply asked him if anything had changed in his life. That’s when he revealed that he had switched from smoking to e-cigarettes.

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The man had purchased the e-cigarette on eBay for $5. It was made in China and the charger, which he plugged into a USB port, was hard-wired with malware.

It would be nice if the e-cigarette case were an isolated incident but, unfortunately, it’s not. The BBC recently reported a malware attack on Apple devices in China. The users downloaded apps from a third-party provider, not the Apple Store, that were infected with malware that’s been dubbed, “Wire Lurker.” Users that had chosen to override built-in Apple safeguards spread the malware between Macs, iPhones, iPads or iPods when they were plugged in through the USB port, even though the connectors were not infected. Apple blocked the apps, ending the proliferation of the malware.

Security expert Pierluigi Paganini writes that everything from photo frames to MP3 players have been preloaded with malware, “Hackers are able to exploit any electronic device to serve a malware…to compromise a poorly protected network.”

So all those neat electronic devices you got for Christmas — enjoy them! But take a moment to follow these safeguards:

  •  Update your computer’s anti-virus software before plugging anything into it
  •  Update all programs when prompted — malware will exploit any vulnerability
  •  Only download apps from trusted sources
  •  Do not override or “jailbreak” your electronics
  •  Do not allow anyone to plug into your devices

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