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Watch out! Phone repair shops can install secret key logging SCREENS

Watch out! Phone repair shops can install secret key logging SCREENS
© Vlad Teodor | Dreamstime .com

Who hasn't experienced a cracked smartphone screen on at least a few different occasions? All it takes is a slip or a small fall that lands at just the right angle and your device could be made inoperable.

In the past, manufacturers like Apple kept a tight lid on the equipment needed to replace your gadget's screen. However, now that this equipment is more easily accessible to other repair shops, it's much easier to find someone who can fix your smartphone or tablet when it's broken.

But there's just one problem: As more and more people begin opening up repair shops, it leaves room for bad eggs to pop up. When you take your device to a third-party vendor for replacement parts, you may be getting more than you'd originally intended.

Spying keyloggers

Some disturbing news has just been reported by researchers who claim repair shops could easily install secret hardware that can completely compromise the security of your gadget.

Replacement screens and chips were used in multiple devices to prove that keyboard input patterns can easily be logged, malware installed, and even pictures can be taken and sent directly to hackers. Beyond that, the false screens can be rigged to even help hackers bypass built-in security features of your gadget.

These screens were tested in a Huawei Nexus 6P, while the other was discovered in an LG G Pad 7.0 to show just how easy it would be for this to happen.

You might think equipment like this would cost hundreds of dollars, but that's far from the truth. Any individual who wanted these parts could order them for around $10. And, what's worse, the parts look convincingly similar to the original counterparts, making them incredibly difficult for the victims to detect.

These keyloggers could easily be installed by anyone who's given access to the inner workings of your device. It exists because manufacturers of these devices assume the factory-installed hardware will be closely guarded and therefore will remain trustworthy throughout the gadget's life. Some refer to this as the "trust boundary," and as long as the manufacturer can keep its supply chain under tight watch, there shouldn't be any threats posed to consumers.

However, when you take your device to a third-party repair shop, that trust boundary is completely shattered. Take a look at the videos below to see just how easy it is for this hardware to be installed on your device when you give someone else access to it:

Who's at risk?

Although Android devices often get a bad rap for being vulnerable to hacks and viruses, it's important to note that Apple gadgets are just as vulnerable to this particular issue.

For researchers to pull off this hack on their test devices, all it took was an ATmega328 micro-controller module, an STM32L432 micro-controller, a little know-how and a blow dryer to booby trap the gadget. It wasn't all that complicated.

How to stay safe

The easiest way to avoid this risk is to not take your damaged phone or tablet to a third-party repair shop. Instead, rely on the manufacturer of your device for any service repairs or replacement parts you need.

Apple also partners with certified repair shops with trusted experts that use only legitimate Apple parts. Even if you live in a rural location, you can have your device repaired by someone who's trustworthy. All you have to do is mail in your Apple gadget and within 7-10 days it will be returned to you. Click here for more information about Apple's Repair Service.

Android also offers repair services for its gadgets, there are just a few more steps to identify the manufacturer of your damaged product, as well as the model. As you know, Android is the operating system for many different types of products, including those made by Samsung, LG, Huawei, Sony and others. To find the best repair service for your Android, click here.

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