Can a battery get a virus?

At first glance, the idea of a battery getting a virus may seem bizarre. Batteries are purely electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy into electrical energy. They have no operating system, no software, and no ability to connect to the internet. So how could a battery possibly get infected by malicious software?

While traditional batteries cannot get infected with computer viruses in the classical sense, recent advances in battery and charging technology have introduced potential cybersecurity risks that resemble viral infections in some ways.

The Rise of Smart Batteries

Many of today’s consumer devices utilize “smart batteries” that contain built-in microchips and firmware. These batteries have the ability to monitor and regulate their own charging, provide detailed information about their condition and history, and even do simple computations.

The microchips allow smart batteries to communicate digitally with the device they are powering and its charging adapter. This communication allows features like displaying an accurate percentage of remaining battery life, preventing overcharging, and detecting when a battery needs to be replaced.

However, this digital communication channel could also potentially be exploited by malware. Any interface that allows data to be written to a battery’s chips creates a possible attack surface.

Potential Cybersecurity Risks

While no reports of actual viral infections of batteries have surfaced so far, researchers have explored and demonstrated how batteries could be attacked:

Draining and Disabling Batteries

Malware could attempt to install itself on the microcontroller inside a smart battery and make it drain faster or disable charging. This could make the battery appear defective or totally useless.

Transmitting Infected Data

An infected battery microcontroller could be made to inject malware into data packets it exchanges with the device and charging adapter. This could potentially propagate viruses further.

Damaging and Destroying Batteries

Viruses could try to damage batteries by manipulating their charging parameters. For example, malware could attempt to increase charge voltage and current to dangerous levels, modify temperature thresholds, or cycling charging on and off rapidly. This could potentially overheat, destabilize, or cause internal shorts in batteries.

Bricking Devices

By fully draining a battery or altering its communication interface, malware could essentially “brick” a device, rendering it unusable and unchargeable. This is similar to what some computer viruses attempt to do to operating systems.

Spying on Users

An infected battery could potentially monitor device power usage patterns and data traffic to gather sensitive information about how, when, and where a user interacts with their device. This spyware capability would be concerning.

How Real is the Threat?

At present, the risk of smart battery hacks and viral infections is likely low for most consumers. This emerging threat has attracted attention from security researchers but no real-world attacks have materialized yet.

Implementing virus-like attacks on batteries is still complex and requires intimate device knowledge. Mass infecting batteries via internet connections would also be extremely challenging.

The most plausible attack vectors would likely involve custom firmware installed during manufacturing. This is similar to how some intelligence agencies reportedly intercept commercial hardware shipments to install spyware.

Battery systems are also designed with robust protections. Quality standards imposed on device and battery makers require countermeasures like digital code signing, encryption, and secure boot processes for firmware.

Nonetheless, cybersecurity researchers recommend that users be cautious when encountering suspiciously dysfunctional batteries or charging issues. As battery and charging technologies continue advancing, the protective measures will need to evolve as well.

Can Ordinary Batteries Get Infected?

For basic disposable alkaline and lithium batteries without any microelectronics, the answer is definitely no. The chemical cells, packaging, and terminals of conventional primary batteries have no digital components or programming that could be infected by code or malware.

However, some more advanced rechargeable battery systems do have basic circuitry that offers limited digital control and firmware storage:

Lithium-Ion (Li-ion)

Rechargeable Li-ion battery packs, like those used in laptops, tablets, and phones, contain a battery management system (BMS) chip. The BMS manages the charging process and protects against damage from overcharging. It does not directly interface with the operating system.

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)

Some rechargeable NiMH batteries include a microchip that monitors temperature and caps charging current. This helps maximize battery life. These chips have minimal storage space for firmware.


Lead-acid batteries in cars contain simple computerized monitoring chips that detect issues like low electrolyte levels. But auto batteries are not reprogrammable and the car’s systems are isolated from infections.

While more complex than basic batteries, these monitoring chips do not provide enough control or external access to allow virus-like infections. At most, a defective BMS chip could potentially disable or damage the battery. So for ordinary rechargeable batteries, viral infections are very unlikely.

The Bottom Line

In summary, basic disposable batteries have no digital components to infect, while simple rechargeable batteries only contain isolated monitoring chips. Truly “smart” internet-connected batteries with extensive programmable microcontrollers are still rare. While cybersecurity researchers propose hypothetical infection scenarios, no real-world cases of batteries being malware-infected have materialized.

So for the vast majority of everyday batteries, viral infections are not a credible risk. As battery technologies continue getting smarter, device makers and standards bodies will need to ensure they are engineered with security in mind. But for now, fears about batteries getting viruses are unwarranted. A regular AA battery simply does not have the complexity to catch a digital disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can smartwatch and smartphone batteries get viruses?

Smartwatch and smartphone batteries are vulnerable to cybersecurity threats in principle, but attacks would be very difficult to pull off. Their batteries have built-in microchips running firmware that could theoretically be infected. But these devices are designed to isolate battery management systems from the main operating system. This makes gaining access to rewrite battery firmware extremely challenging. Real-world cases of smartwatch or phone battery infections have not been reported.

Can a power bank battery get a virus from infected USB devices?

Power banks are unlikely to get viruses from charging infected USB devices. A power bank is essentially just a battery. While power banks convert AC power from a wall socket into DC power that charges USB devices, this charging process is handled by simple circuitry without programmable chips. Power banks have no digital interface to transfer viruses from the device being charged into the power bank’s battery. Any data transfer goes directly from the wall socket to the USB device only.

Can solar batteries get viruses?

Solar batteries and panels do not have digital components that could get infected by viruses or malware. Solar cells simply convert light energy into electrical energy using photovoltaic effects in materials like silicon. The electrical output gets stored in a conventional rechargeable battery. Solar equipment contains no microprocessors or operating systems that malware could infect. The only risk would be if the solar battery were connected to infected grid infrastructure for net metering. But the solar panels themselves are incapable of getting infected digitally.

Can a car battery get a virus from an infected vehicle infotainment system?

It is highly unlikely that a car’s main battery could get a virus from the vehicle’s infotainment system. The battery management systems in automotive batteries are isolated from other networks on the vehicle. This is designed to prevent issues with one system from impacting the battery or other critical systems. Car infotainment systems may interact with batteries to display charge levels, but do not have access to reprogram the battery’s firmware. Digital isolation protects the battery.

Could malware cause a battery to explode or catch fire?

It is hypothetically possible for malware to manipulate battery management systems in a way that could lead to catastrophic battery failure, like thermal runaway. By disabling safety mechanisms meant to prevent overcharging, a battery could potentially be deliberately overheated to the point of fire or explosion. However, multiple hardware safety precautions would need to be bypassed and battery chemistry pushed to extremes that would likely require expert electrical engineering knowledge. Realistically, this makes physically explosive malware extremely unlikely. Any such attempt would more plausibly just damage the battery.