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It has 3 terminals and is presumably a smart battery.

I bought it on ebay recently for $2.74 USD and that included postage from China to Australia. It would normally retail for maybe $40 - $50.

The phone's an LG TU550 and the battery is supposed to be model LGLP-GAJM. The sticker on the back is identical-looking to the original but the battery is larger and black, not silver like the original.

Update: I've plugged it in and apart from looking ugly (it sits on the outside of the phone and forms the back of the keypad) the only obvious misbehavior is that the phone doesn't show that it's charging (animate the battery icon) when plugged into the power adapter.

One possible reason for suspicion is the price - how can they be making a profit? (If they weren't, I'd have to wonder about their motives)

Update 23 Jul 2011: Looks like this is definitely plausible, at least for Apple laptop batteries. See Threatpost article Apple Laptop Batteries Can Be Bricked, Firmware Hacked.

You can read all the firmware, make changes to the code, do whatever you want. And those code changes will survive a reinstall of the OS, so you could imagine writing malware that could hide on the chip on the battery. You'd need a vulnerability in the OS or something that the battery could then attack, though.

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@Hugh Allen, i'd be primary concerned about buying stolen goods. –  Hendrik Brummermann Apr 9 '11 at 14:53
    
Good job - you posted an update before I ran across the Apple story. My earlier comment on the deletion is vindicated! –  nealmcb Aug 1 '11 at 19:16

5 Answers 5

Pretty much paralleling what the other two responses have said; Firmware based malicious code has been proven countless times. From a theoretical standpoint, it is possible that there is some sort of malware contained w/in the smart battery's firmware.

In the reality of the situation the much easier target is the phone itself. Those who are in the business of creating malware will, almost unequivocally take the easiest path to their end goal. This means that unless you are specifically targeted for some reason and attacking the phone is for some reason a poor option, this might be a possibility.

Unless it is a targeted attack, the "bad guys" want to get the most out of their work. This means they will target the most users in the easiest way that they can figure out.

So, while not saying this is impossible, it is improbable, based mostly on the design of the vast majority of attacking schemes.

I have one additional question: Is there a specific reason for you to suspect that your phone is infected with some sort of malware? If so what is that reason? In that case, what lead you to suspect your battery as the source?

P.S. If you happen to be a high-ranking member of a government or something to that nature, this evaluation may need to be revised, haha.

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The phone hasn't misbehaved in a suspicious way so far. See question update. And I'm not someone who they would bother to deliberately target :) –  Hugh Allen Apr 9 '11 at 4:56

I would be more worried about pre-owned (pun for you there!) phones. Or phones shipped by companies such as Sony and Samsung. These two companies are notorious for shipping hardware/firmware with rootkits.

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Just announced today, Charlie Miller has managed to find a vulnerability in the smart controller in certain batteries for Apple laptops.

Apparently he has not yet managed to use it to hack the OS, or to make it catch fire but he reckons it is possible!

His talk is planned for Black Hat in Las Vegas.

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Yes I noticed this story -- see my recent edit :) –  Hugh Allen Jul 26 '11 at 4:05
    
Ah - well played:-) –  Rory Alsop Jul 26 '11 at 7:50

Well, I can't categorically rule it out as impossible. I suppose it is always possible that the phone's software that interacts with the smart battery might have a vulnerability (e.g., a buffer overrun vulnerability), and that it might be possible for malware to infect a battery and then send malicious data to the phone to attack the phone.

But I've never heard of a single instance of anything like that, and it sounds like a relatively low risk to me. Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. (Maybe that says more about me than about the likelihood of malware, who knows.)

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I know that the PSP interacts with it's battery and while it is really a portable gaming device, it is still very similar to other mobile devices such as cell phones. In order for a PSP to boot properly, the software checks battery states to ensure the firmware and everything is official. However, the battery, as far as I know does not really contain much data, if any. I suppose the target for cell phones would be to obtain encryption keys and and intercept your data as you access mobile banking services, but unless both the phone AND the battery were engineered by the same person I highly doubt that accomplishing that would be possible. Now, downloading some sort of unverified app to your phone would probably be something to worry about because you must grant that app access to many things such as the internet and other memory locations where it could more easily propagate itself. Well their is my little analysis of the situation! :)

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