Apple MacBook laptops vulnerable to battery hack

MacBook laptops could be vulnerable to hackers. Their batteries use microprocessors which, if compromised, could be used to kill the battery or possibly even blow it up.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
2 min read

Apple's range of MacBook laptops could have their batteries hacked, if a Forbes interview with security researcher and experienced hacker Charlie Miller is to be believed.

Modern laptop batteries aren't dumb chunks of lithium. They've got a microprocessor stuck on them that talks to the laptop itself, doing useful stuff like checking power levels and monitoring the heat of the battery. According to Miller, however, the MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air all have chips that ship with a default password.

Once you know that password, it's possible to wreak all manner of havoc on a computer's battery. Bricking the battery, making it completely useless, is apparently a simple procedure.

You could also stick some malware on the microprocessor that would infect the computer time and time again. "You could put a whole hard drive in, reinstall the software, flash the BIOS, and every time it would reattack and screw you over. There would be no way to eradicate or detect it other than removing the battery."

Miller also reckons it might be possible to remotely explode a laptop battery, though he hasn't tried that personally. "I work out of my home, so I wasn't super inclined to cause an explosion there," he said.

What a cowaReasonable enough. Miller will be demonstrating how to hack a battery microprocessor at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas next month, and he'll also be releasing a tool for MacBook users called 'Caulkgun' that will change battery firmware codes to something more complex than the default password, protecting them from attack.

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