Phone charging danger zones
No one likes it when their phone runs out of power when you’re far from home. Public charging stations may seem like a welcome solution, but using them could set you up for trouble. Why? “Those charging stations and USB devices can be easily modified to give criminals access to your phone, including installing software on the phone,” says James Goepel, cybersecurity professor at Drexel University and CEO at Fathom Cyber. Here’s where you should never use a public USB port to charge your phone.
Airports have banks of charging stations and places where you can leave your phone to charge up. But trusting unknown devices is where the danger lies. “Generally, places where people are not thinking about this security of their devices or perhaps are in a rush are the places where bad guys would go and set up these kinds of attacks,” says Jason Glassberg, managing director of Casaba Security. But if you bring your own plug and your own cable, you’re assured of not being a victim.
Configuring USB ports to extract data from the phones of individuals who use USB ports to charge their phones is known as ‘juice jacking’, says Jack Vonder Heide, president of Technology Briefing Centers Inc. For example, a criminal might set up a free charging station in a bus terminal or train station. When people plug their phones into the USB port, their phone gets charged but their sensitive data also gets copied, he says.
Pro tip: If you need to charge your phone in a public location, it is best to plug the USB cord into a 110volt adapter. Or invest in a protective device that prevents data from leaving your phone.
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