Security Researcher Develops Lightning Cable That Gives Hackers a Way to Remotely Infiltrate Your Computer

A security researcher named MG has developed a Lightning cable replacement that can give hackers a way to remotely access your computer, reports Motherboard.

The cables in question (dubbed O.MG Cables) are cables directly from Apple that have been opened up to allow for additional components to be implanted, but the modifications are undetectable and there's no way to distinguish the hacked cable from the original.

Image via Motherboard

When plugged into a target computer, the cable behaves as a typical cable does, connecting to and charging iOS devices, but it also lets hackers remotely connect to a machine to run commands. It comes equipped with scripts and commands that a hacker can run on a victim's machine, along with tools to "kill" the USB implant to hide evidence of its existence.

MG typed in the IP address of the fake cable on his own phone's browser, and was presented with a list of options, such as opening a terminal on my Mac. From here, a hacker can run all sorts of tools on the victim's computer.

"It's like being able to sit at the keyboard and mouse of the victim but without actually being there," MG said.

In a test with Motherboard, MG was able to connect his phone to a WiFi hotspot that the cable was emitting. He said he needed to be within 300 feet to access the target machine, but also said that the cable can be configured to act as a client for a nearby wireless network, potentially allowing for hacking from an unlimited distance.

"I'm currently seeing up to 300 feet with a smartphone when connecting directly," he said, when asked how close an attacker needs to be to take advantage of the cable once a victim has plugged it into their machine. A hacker could use a stronger antenna to reach further if necessary, "But the cable can be configured to act as a client to a nearby wireless network. And if that wireless network has an internet connection, the distance basically becomes unlimited."

MG imagines the cable could be swapped in for a target's legitimate cable or gifted to someone because it looks exactly like an Apple cable, complete with accurate packaging. Each of these cables were made by hand and are being sold by MG for $200, but he is teaming up with a company to produce them as a legitimate security tool.

It's not clear if there is any defense against this kind of hack, but it sounds like these cables are prohibitively expensive and limited in availability at the current time. Those concerned should buy cables directly from Apple without accepting free cables from anyone. Apple may also be developing a mitigation and has previously restricted other USB access techniques through USB Restricted Mode.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
15 months ago
Be wary of a guy in a trench coat handing out free Lightening Cables.
Score: 75 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago
Wow. Scary.

"Those concerned should buy cables directly from Apple without accepting free cables from anyone."

People give out free cables?
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago
I think the scariest part of this is that it shows that should a supply chain be compromised, and secret components added to the manufacturing process, it would be virtually impossible to detect prior to normal use.

Good work though. It might lead to more 'do you trust this keyboard?' prompts though...
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago
This is why we can’t have nice things.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago

Get a Sharpie and mark a soot on your cables. Problem solved.

Attacker has ability to embed a small computer and wireless transceiver in a tiny USB cable and covertly connect to it.
Attacker can't figure out how to use a Sharpie.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
15 months ago

I'm finding that Anker makes pretty good alternatives.

That would be the opposite of what you want. You want a supplier that you know has strong supply chain security protections. Anker is a foreign-owned company which, for even mid-level security regulations, disqualifies it right there.

Plus, buying from Amazon is the absolute worst because they co-mingle inventory. Somebody could send tampered cables for sale via FBA, and they would send them to you as sold by Amazon or Anker. Buying from mail order allows for targeted attacks, even somebody swapping the package on your porch. The safest would be to walk right into a random Apple store and select a box off the shelf.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Hands-On With iOS 14 Widgets, Custom Icons, and Home Screen Setup

Tuesday September 22, 2020 3:25 pm PDT by
Apple with iOS 14 introduced widgets on the Home Screen, leading to unprecedented levels of customization for the iPhone. Combined with Shortcuts that let you change an app's icon, iOS 14 lets you create a whole new look for your Home Screen. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We've been following along with some of the creative alternative Home Screen designs that M...

New Images Leak of iPhone 12 Braided USB-C to Lightning Cable

Thursday September 24, 2020 2:37 am PDT by
Rumors suggest Apple's upcoming iPhone 12 models will ship with a new Lightning to USB-C cable that includes a braided fabric design. Images of the purported cables were leaked in July, and today leaker Mr White has shared new images that give us a closer look at what we might get included in the iPhone 12 box. The photos show a USB-C to Lightning cable with a clearly braided design rather...

Apple's iPhone 12 Event Could Happen on October 13 Based on Rumors From Mobile Operators

Wednesday September 23, 2020 11:51 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone-centric event could perhaps be held on Tuesday, October 13, according to information shared with MacRumors by an employee at a UK cellular carrier. There's no way for us to confirm the dates at this point in time nor are we sure on the credibility of the source, but even without a rumor, Tuesday, October 13 is a good guess based on Apple's historic launch timelines, ...

New Version of Microsoft Office Coming Next Year That Won't Require a Subscription

Thursday September 24, 2020 1:53 am PDT by
Microsoft will next year offer a new perpetual release of Microsoft Office for Mac and Windows that doesn't require a subscription to use, according to the software giant (via Windows Central). "Microsoft Office will also see a new perpetual release for both Windows and Mac, in the second half of 2021," said Microsoft in a blog post announcing the next version of its Exchange server,...

Interest in iOS 14 Home Screen Ideas Helps Pinterest Break Daily Download Record

Wednesday September 23, 2020 4:37 am PDT by
Apple's introduction of widgets on the Home Screen in iOS 14 has driven a surge in interest among users looking to customize their iPhone, and that has reportedly had a knock-on effect for Pinterest, whose iOS app has seen record downloads as users flock to its content seeking design inspiration. As reported by TechCrunch, App Store intelligence firm Apptopia was first to note the impact of ...

'iPhone 12 mini' Name Reappears in Leaked Apple iPhone 12 Case Stickers

Friday September 25, 2020 1:58 am PDT by
Earlier this week a proven leaker claimed that the iPhone 12 lineup would be named "iPhone 12 mini," "iPhone 12," "iPhone 12 Pro," and "iPhone 12 Pro Max," and today the same nomenclature has appeared again in a photo depicting alleged stickers from unreleased Silicone iPhone cases originating from Apple's international distribution center in Ireland. The photo shows three stickers with the...

Apple Releases iOS 14.0.1 With Fix for Bug That Resets Default Apps After Rebooting

Thursday September 24, 2020 10:12 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 14.0.1, the first update to the iOS 14 operating system that was released on September 16. Today's update is a bug fix update addressing issues that weren't able to be fixed in the initial iOS 14 launch. The iOS 14.0.1 update is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to Settings > General > Software Update. ...

Apple Emphasizes That Solo Loop May Increase in Length Over Time, Updates Sizing Guide With More Specific Instructions

Wednesday September 23, 2020 8:26 am PDT by
Apple on Tuesday updated one of its support documents to emphasize that the new silicone rubber Solo Loop for the Apple Watch may increase in length over time, as mentioned in fine print at the bottom of the Solo Loop product page. Apple has also updated its printable Solo Loop sizing guide with more specific instructions, as noted by 9to5Mac's Michael Steeber. The guide now advises users to ...

iOS 14 Widgets Offer iPhone Users Creative Home Screen Ideas

Sunday September 20, 2020 8:43 pm PDT by
Updated on September 22nd with hands on video. In iOS 14, Apple introduced ‌the concept of Home Screen‌ widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. Widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. Despite the relative lack of...

Kuo: Mini-LED Displays to Debut in Apple's Next iPad Pro

Tuesday September 22, 2020 11:45 pm PDT by
Following his report earlier this week indicating that Apple will be accelerating adoption of mini-LED displays in its iPad and Mac notebook lineups thanks to better than expected development from potential secondary supplier Sanan Optoelectronics, analyst Ming-Chi has released a new report today sharing a bit more perspective on the mini-LED display market as it relates to Apple. Kuo says...