As with any cyber threat, prevention starts with awareness of the risk and, as a road warrior, I see people taking an unnecessary risk far too often. This one involves smart phones.
Here’s the problem. The cable you use to charge your phone is the same one you use to transfer or sync your data. This reality creates an attack vector that someone could take advantage of during the charging process. In short, if you were to use a USB cable to charge your phone at a free charging kiosk like the ones commonly found in airports and malls, someone could now illegitimately gain access to your data and/or place malicious code onto your phone. This type of breach is called juice jacking and it is a very real and potentially serious threat.
Now, I will admit there are many public USB charging ports available that are perfectly safe to use. The challenge, however, is in trying to identify the ones that aren’t. Think about it. You’re never going to find a warning sign that says this particular charging station isn’t safe to use. Fortunately, the solution to the problem is so easy there is no reason not to do the right thing. Here are a few ideas.
- Carry a portable power bank. This is what I tend to do when traveling and since no data is stored on the power bank, I can charge that at a public charging kiosk worry free if I ever need to.
- Use your own adaptor and cable. Yes, you will need to find an available Ac outlet, but isn’t the peace of mind worth it?
- Prevent the transfer of any data by placing a charge only device or adaptor between your USB cable and the public charging kiosk.
All three of these solutions come with little or no added cost to you, responsibly address the problem, and again, are so easy to do. When you think about what’s at risk by failing to do all you can to prevent this type of threat, I simply can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to play it safe.
All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.