Can e-cigs give you cancer? Maybe. Can e-cigs give you malware? Maybe


Charge only USB cords will sidestep the potential problem. I’d be really surprised to learn that anything other than ‘dumb’ USB to battery charger circuits would be used on a e-cig battery. That would greatly increase the per device cost for no real reason.


…Or just use a mechanical mod with actual batteries.
And cancer? Well, what doesn’t cause cancer nowadays?


You could integrate a USB disk in one, fairly easily. Next to no added cost, quite increased usefulness of the device.

The real problem with e-cigs is you can’t call the store and ask if they’ve got Sir Walter Raleigh in a vape.


Ummmm no.
A USB receptacle with 2 simple wires leading to a battery is going to be significantly less expensive than a USB receptacle, micro-controller, crystal oscillator, and NAND.

Smaller flash drives sell for $5 or so fairly commonly. That’s the end-user price, after all the profit margins and shipping along the supply chain.

Silicon is astonishingly cheap these days.

You are seeing economy of scale there. The internals for most USB storage devices are generic. The layout and design are generic as well. Manufacturers will produce millions of these devices and for companies who have plastics companies produce custom covers for them. To put one in a cylindrical tube that is less than .5" wide would require custom internals be produced that would not benefit from the low cost USB flash drive manufacturing needed for a $5 drive.
E-cig batteries are produced in much smaller numbers. They are also produced in factories not equipped to automate the process of including a functional USB. That means re-tooling your battery factory to embed chips in e-cig devices without marketing them and without selling them as such all in hopes of infecting a computer that might actually yield something useful. Even if you wanted to sell batteries with embedded USB, the cost of the first few thousand units would mean waiting years to see a profit.
It’s not cheap and it’s not easy. The real world is a bit more complicated than your imagination would have you believe.

1 Like

many e-cigs are not 0.5 inches wide, the one in the photo in the article could easily have a stock sub $2 usb stick inside of it, and the charging leads can be soldered to the same contacts, making the part less then a buck more then the charging only counterpart. and 256mb - 512mb is a HUGE amount of space where malware is concerned and you can buy large warehoused lots of those for almost nothing.

I’m not arguing that this is being done, just playing devils advocate for many of the assumptions you bring to the table in your rebuttal. Most of the 0.5 inch e-cigs don’t have built in usb chargers, the drop into an inductive charger that is usb and larger, or you have to unscrew the battery portion and place that into a larger charger. I’ve seen very few usb e-cigs with this would be out of the question or cost prohibitive, even so i find the notion unlikely as there are cheaper and easier ways to get bot nets then infected e-cigs.

1 Like

Yes, and the modules are often not any wider than the USB connector.

Unless you can use an already-existing board. Worst case, you make the ecig case a little thicker; you are custom-designing that part anyway so you have the leeway.

They still need to put in the board with the connector. So they could put in a board with connector AND flash drive circuitry. The level of difficulty should be similar, I happened to disassemble both kinds of devices.

Assumption that this would be done for intelligence purposes is rather unfounded here. Inclusion of USB disk could however be a low-cost way of differentiating your product from the myriads of other e-cigs out there.

You need to have a circuitboard there anyway, with the battery charger and protection (hopefully) chips. You are limited by the battery size so you cannot go too thin anyway. Adding a flash controller and a flash memory to the circuitboard makes it a bit bigger, adds the cost of the two chips, and otherwise integrates well into the manufacturing process - and that assumes the extra step of redesigning the board. Did you ever see a USB flashdisk from inside? Tried to take it apart? Saw its schematics? It’s no magic.

Actually, a battery with USB connector, charging circuitry and mass storage with an user-programmable controller (so it can act as storage, datalogger, dual-port flash accessible from another microcontroller or via USB, etc…) could be a pretty good product on its own. A building block for other products.

And this style of thinking here in the West is why Chinese are eating us alive.

The one in that photo is the largest battery I’ve seen on an e-cig. The batteries at my local retailer tend to run much smaller but point taken. Large format batteries could accept the parts for a mass produced USB device.

Mine (.5") just has a mini USB female port on the end.

The only board involved is circuitry for battery charging and care. The USB interface is directly soldered to two wires with no board at all.

It might also have to do with near slave wages, no worker protections, and a general disregard for human life. But that makes things cheap so it’s all good.

There are many implementations out there. Some are just wires on a connector, others have the connector mounted on a board.

That too. But, do you have other choices to buy from, anyway?

I only buy free trade, organically grown, certified cruelty free electronics from Narnia. Or was it Japan? I get those two confused.


They most likely use conflict-tantalum in the caps anyway.

yeah, i agree for the most part. it is highly unlikely for many reasons, but not out of the realm of possibility for certain models.

the real question is who would charge a cheap non-data e-cig from their computer’s usb port, instead of a dedicated usb charger? i never plug any unrated cheap usb devices into my computer because that is a recipe for disaster. last thing i want is a usb coffee mug heater killing my mac. :slight_smile:

A well-designed port should be protected. Usually Polyswitch fuses are used. Some chipsets can even measure the current and disconnect the port on overload.

One ancient motherboard I had got USB ports killed by a short circuit. The protection circuitry used was a soldered-in regular fuse. A Polyswitch one soldered on its legs saved the day and the board.

This is why I think service manuals with schematics should be mandated to be available even before purchase, so a buyer could choose by actual design instead of by cooked-up specs that omit the most important information.

1 Like

the power limiting circuits and fuses are only on the power channels, not the data portions of the connector, so a short can bypass the protection built into the port quite easily. the problem with any spec, is they often make certain assumptions, like power only over a certain part of the connector, which don’t account for certain types of failures.

I recently lost 2 external 4tb hard drives because a cheap usb 3.0 hub literally burned out and took them with it. such circuits are not 100% effective.

i make a habit of plugging any non-data usb for charging only device into something not hooked to the computer, because why tempt fate and why would you plug it into the computer if you don’t have to. not only is it unnecessary and pointless, dedicated usb charging ports are cheap and easy to come by and often ship with such devices. the cheaper usb devices especially, like the aforementioned coffee mug warmer, the desk fan, the dancing hula girl, neon fish tank, and all the other crap that likely barely meets the usb specs etc.


True. However the short would have to be to the D+/D- data lines. These usually have ~68ohm series resistors, and that limits the current through the substrate diodes to some 25 milliamps, which the port should tolerate. (Emphasis on should.) The lines are sometimes even 5V-tolerant.

Interesting. What was the mechanism of damage? Was it the hub itself, or the attached power supply (assuming two hard drives need a powered hub)? Did the drives themselves die too, or was it only the USB-SATA controller that bought the farm?

Because of convenience.

A good alternative is a multiport wall charger. I like those. Or a singleport one and a homemade splitter; faster to make than to decide which one to buy.

1 Like

Many e-cig batteries use a charger that has a USB A-size jack on one end and a custom battery-fitting thing on the other (which also screws into the various vaporizer heads.) Usually you plug that directly into either a computer or a USB charger (charger puts out more power, so it’s the better choice if you’re in a hurry for your nicotine fix, but doesn’t matter as much if you’re planning to vaporize other things.)

People have done various USB devices that are scarcely bigger than the A-sized jack, and it wouldn’t take much extra plastic to hide that, since the cable’s going to be funny-looking anyway.

And there are various tiny USB flashdisks out there and you can just use one as the connector and attach the power wires and mould the board into the connector body. Not unlike how some USB-serial converter cables are made.