Have you ever noticed how quickly your phone needs to be recharged?
When you’re traveling and see your “low battery” phone light turn on, it’s easy to turn to charging kiosks or public USB charging ports. However, as helpful as they can be, these charging ports can be tampered with to steal data while your device is being charged.
This cyber-attack method, known as “juice jacking” is relatively unknown, making it one of the more dangerous security threats.
How Does It Work?
When you connect your phone using only a USB cable, you aren’t simply charging your phone – you’re syncing it (and your data) to whatever device you’re plugging it into. If someone has tampered with the public port, they may be able to access photos, text messages or other phone data. They may even spread viruses to your phone.
It’s certainly dangerous – so how can you avoid it?
Protecting Your Device Options
There are two things you can do to limit risk consistently.
- Install anti-virus protection. This is a good step to put on all your device to add an additional level of protection against hacking and to alert you of malicious activity.
- Say “yes” to updates. Whenever there’s a software update notification, go ahead and install it. Don’t keep putting off your updates.
In addition, to protect yourself specifically against juice jacking:
- Use pronged charger instead of USB. The “old-fashioned” two or three-pronged phone charger plugin doesn’t allow for a transfer of data from your phone, so it’s a good way to still use public ports or electrical outlets.
- Bring a backup battery. If you know you’ll be away from outlets for an extended period of time, bring a backup battery to get your phone back to 100%.
- Lock your phone before charging. If you need a PIN, fingerprint, or passcode to unlock your phone, it should be safe. USB ports typically can’t sync to a locked phone.
- Power the phone down before charging. This option is an absolute last resort. When turned off, some models of phones only charge when plugged into a USB. Unless you know for certain that your phone doesn’t sync when turned off, try to avoid this one.
If You’ve Been Juice Jacked
If your device has been compromised you’ll want to immediately reset your phone to its factory setting. Don’t back up any data from an infected phone – you risk spreading malware. Losing your data will be a pain, but it will be much more difficult than dealing with an infected phone.