The port that you use to charge your smartphone is the same one that you can use to transfer data. Hackers know this and have devised ways to steal data from travelers looking to charge their phones and tablets at free charging stations in public spaces like airports, coffee shops, and hotel lobbies.
Called juice jacking, hackers modify charging stations with hardware designed to install malware on your phone or tablet. Just plugging into a compromised charging station can infect your phone.
Both charging ports and charging cables can be used to deliver malware. So it’s not your lucky day when you find a power adapter left behind in an outlet or a cable dangling from a public charging port. While that cable or power adapter may have been left by an absentminded traveler, it may also be a lure set by a hacker. And once a hacker has access to your phone, he or she can control it without your knowledge and steal your data.
4 easy ways to prevent juice jacking
Fortunately, it’s really easy to protect yourself from this type of hack.
1. Use a data blocking adapter
If you use a data blocking adapter, like the PortaPow 3rd Gen Data Blocker, you can plug into public USB ports with your existing cable.
2. Use the electric outlet, not the USB port
Always use the electric outlet and your charger rather than the USB port at charging stations.
3. Invest in a portable charger
Skip the public charging stations and use a portable charger, like the Anker PowerCore II Slim 10000.
4. Make sure you don’t give data access to an unkown device.
When an iPhone connects to a computer or other device that wants to access data, you’ll get a pop up asking if you want to “Trust This Computer?” If you select “Don’t Trust,” you an charge and your settings and data won’t be accessible. If you’re concerned that you may have inadvertently given access to an untrusted device and want a clean slate, go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Location & Privacy.
For Android phones, you’ll get a pop up or a notification that says “Charging this device via USB.” Under “Use USB for,” make sure you’ve selected “Supply Power.”
The hazards of plugging into a rental car
When you rent a car these days, it’s likely that it will come equipped with an infotainment system that will interface with your phone for calls, texts, music, navigation and more. Once you’ve connected, these cars may store your personal information.
The data collected may include your phone number, call and message logs, streaming music service account information, locations you visited using the navigation system, and more. Simply unplugging your phone won’t delete the data stored in the car. You’ll have to delete it manually.
When you return your car, make sure you upair your device. Find the System Settings and/or the Bluetooth Setup menu and delete your device. Then, find the factory reset option and perform a factory reset on the infotainment system.