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Explosions & Computer Hacking Dampen E-Cigarette Hype

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When e-cigarettes first hit the market, many people were hopeful that, instead of being a “gateway” to traditional smoking, they would instead be an escape out of it—a way for traditional smokers to quit cigarettes and slowly phase out of smoking altogether.

But stories of e-cigarette batteries exploding and e-cigarettes being used to pass code to your laptop have dampened much of the hype.

Now, consumers and traditional smokers looking to quit are left to wonder: is vaping worth the risk?

Possibility of Computer Hacking

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In May, an anonymous security researcher modified a vaporizer and published a video online of him hacking into a laptop through the vaporizer as it was charging through the USB port.

Although the researcher, who withheld his real name, acknowledged that he couldn’t have accomplished this without modifying the device beforehand, he stated that his goal was to make people more aware that plugging random devices into their computer could be dangerous. “A lot of folks aren’t aware that something like this is even possible whether it be firmware or added hardware and a tiny bit of code found online,” he told Mashable.

Security researcher Ross Bevington demonstrated last month at a London convention how e-cigarettes could be used to trick a computer into thinking the battery was the mouse or keyboard or by disrupting its network traffic, according to Sky News.

Both Bevington and the anonymous researcher agreed that damaging malware could be transmitted through a modified vaporizer. However, the little space offered by the e-cigarette to transmit code would put limitations on just how damaging any malware could be.

“The WannaCry malware for instance was 4-5MB, hundreds of times larger than the space on an e-cigarette,” Bevington told Sky News. “That being said, using something like an e-cigarette to download something larger from the Internet would be possible.”

Exploding E-Cigarettes

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Stories of exploding e-cigarettes continue to cycle through the news. In May, none other than a Detroit police officer suffered severe burns after an e-cigarette battery exploded in his pocket during a police academy graduation.

“It’s an intense pain that I’ve never felt before in my life,” Lt. Howard Phillips told WDIV. He suffered second- and third-degree burns.

A smoker for 30 years, Phillips quit last year and began vaping instead. But he warned against using e-cigarettes after his incident.

“Find an alternative, because I thought I had found one. If I had to do it all over again, I definitely wouldn’t have chosen this method.”

Lt. Phillips isn’t the only one who’s writing off e-cigarettes. The U.S. Navy is banning e-cigarettes and vaporizers from aircraft, ships, and submarines out of fear of the batteries exploding.

The batteries have started fires on ships, injured sailors with second-degree burns, and forced at least one aircraft to land, according to The Virginian Pilot. The ban follows last year’s ban of e-cigarettes in checked baggage on airlines by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Exploding e-cigarettes can result not only in burns, but also other serious injuries. Consider the case of Joseph Cavins, who lost an eye after his e-cigarette exploded in his face in April 2016.

Help from a Product Liability Attorney

Although the hype may be dying down around e-cigarettes, many people still use them and are unaware that the batteries they use carry the risk of explosion. If you’ve been injured due to a defective e-cigarette, a product liability attorney can help. Call Hensley Legal Group today or contact us online for a free consultation.