Charging kiosks in airports, shopping malls and other public places are convenient especially when we have phones that are quick to die on us. And it’s great there are companies that set up these kiosks for free out of goodwill. But beware: public charging kiosks carries a risk of your smartphone getting infected with malware.
Earlier this month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning to users not to use public USB ports because of malware risks. While it’s meant for US citizens, the warning should be heeded by people in other countries where there are free charging stations in public.
Remember that USB ports may not only transmit power but also data. Public USB charging ports that seem innocuous may have been compromised by hackers to carry out “juice jack attacks.” As soon as you plug in your device, the malware in these infected USB ports will look for vulnerabilities that could be exploited to gain access to your device. If they’re successful in getting through, the hackers could copy your sensitive data, monitor your keystrokes, among other things.
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If you have no other options (like power banks or using your own charger in an electrical outlet) but to use a public charging port, use a USB cable that’s for transmitting power only and not data. Alternatively, use a USB data blocker. Also known as a USB condom, it is a small adapter that goes between the USB cable and the device’s charging port that prevents data transfers by blocking the data pins on the USB cable.