Cybersecurity

Avoid juice jacking and safely recharge your battery this summer

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Cybercriminals can use USB charging stations in airports, hotels, malls or other public spaces as conduits for malware

Over the last 10+ years, modern smartphones and other portable devices have become our constant companions. Today, smartphones allow us to do more than just call or send text messages. Mobile technology puts the world at our fingertips and we use our phones in lieu of our computers for anything from sending email to booking vacations and checking our bank accounts. Laptops have also become more portable and travel-friendly, and their compact form factor makes their use convenient ‘on the road’.

However, all these capabilities come at a cost. Mobile phones and laptops cannot stay connected like desktop PCs. With processors that are often power-hungry, they will last only a short time while charging. This is what the proliferation of public charging points aims to solve by providing a convenient way for people to plug in their devices when not at home or in the office.

From a safety point of view, however, there are concerns with this charging cradle. As the summer travel season draws near, you may want to heed a recent warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The FBI warns: Avoid public charging stations

In a recent tweet, the FBI’s Denver office warned people against using free charging stations at airports, hotels or shopping centers, as bad actors have found ways to use public USB ports to inject malware and monitoring software into their computers. device.

Not unlike previous warnings of its ilk, the FBI recommends that people bring their own chargers and USB cables, and use a power outlet instead (because adapters carry electricity, not data).

In the juice squeeze (a term created by security journalist Brian Krebs in 2011), any device connected to such a port via a USB cable could fall victim. Malware installed via a damaged USB port can cause catastrophic damage to a device, including locking it, extracting personal data and passwords, and giving criminals access to the device owner’s online accounts.

Hacked by the charger

We all find ourselves needing a quick charge at some point, especially after a long day at school or outside – places where electrical outlets aren’t easy to find. Many children and students, for example, use public charging points on buses/trains or in shopping centres. The problem is that since USB outlets are used for charging and file transfer, their file transfer capabilities can be abused to transfer malware to devices.

Plus, even just a normal USB cable left somewhere can be dangerous, mimicking the old “lost and found” tactics of malware-laden CDs or flash drives.

There are many types of malware that crooks can install onto your device. As previously mentioned, they can install ransomware, which locks your phone until you pay a “ransom”, but promises of unlocking can be false. Likewise, they can install spyware, track your habits or your physical location. Then there are Trojans, which can serve a variety of purposes, including data theft.

Awareness and awareness go a long way

Regarding cybersecurity threats, awareness is the most important aspect. Otherwise, unsuspecting users are more likely to fall victim to any kind of fraud, data theft, breach or other threats. This goes hand in hand with vigilance, which is especially important for people who use their company issued devices also for personal purposes, because even a small mistake based on human error can cost a company.

With that in mind, it’s better to be safe than sorry and take these precautions:

  1. According to the FBI, avoid using public USB charging points. They can be used to compromise your device so opt to have your own wall outlet charger or external power bank.
  2. In your phone settings try it prohibit data transfer while charging. This setting is usually the default; however, it is still better to check and stay safe than sorry.
  3. Use “USB Condoms”. Yes, as the name insinuates, it’s low cost”condom” Plug it into your USB port/cable and offer added protection by severing any data transfer between the device and the charging point.
  4. Finally, NO use a USB cable/power bank/flash drive or whatever is connected to your device it is NOT yours or one you just found lying on the street or on the table.

With these points in mind, you can be sure that you are one step ahead of potential charging-related security issues, but if you are still unsure, please take a look at some of our other articles on WeLiveSecurity or ESET Blog for additional tips and best practices.



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