Juice Jacking: Be Careful When Using Airport USB Ports

Prior to Covid, people who were concerned about touching door knobs and worried about other people’s germs were considered “germaphobes”. If they were using their sleeve to open a door or a tissue to flip a switch out in public, people would think they were weird. And the very few who wore a mask were gawked at as someone who had some type of an obsessive-compulsive issue. Well, look where we are now. Who’s the obsessive-compulsive germaphobe today? Maybe not everyone, but definitely millions more. That brings us to juice jacking.

Juice Jacking at Airport USB Ports

Viruses are everywhere. And while microbes like bacteria and viruses can be healthy in some way, like helping you build your immune system, they are simply a fact of life. But not all viruses are good. And I am unaware of a computer virus having any benefit.

You could also be putting yourself at risk of juice jacking by plugging your devices into the USB charging stations that many airports offer. This scam has been around for over a decade, and it hasn’t gone away.

What is Juice Jacking?

It is definitely possible that a cybercriminal could use one of those power stations to download your data or install malware. You wouldn’t know about it, either, until it’s too late.

Plugging into a public USB port to charge your devices is similar to finding a toothbrush on a sidewalk, and then putting it into your mouth. You wouldn’t do that, right? You don’t know where that toothbrush has been…and you don’t know where that USB port has been either. It’s impossible to know who has used that port before you, and many people don’t even know that these ports can be used to steal data.

The good news is that even though it is possible, it doesn’t happen a ton, so you don’t have to totally panic. But, keep in mind that people won’t even realize that this is happenings, so it could be a bigger issue and we wouldn’t even know it.

There are some things that you can do to keep yourself safe, though.

Here are some tips to stop juice jacking:

  • Upgrade your digital devices. Newer phones have better bigger batteries.
  • iPhones are unlikely to be “jacked” but Androids are vulnerable. Make sure to install antivirus on an Android mobile phone.
  • Before leaving home, make sure that your devices are fully charged.
  • Buy a second charger that you keep on you or in your car and plug your device in every time you drive so you can keep it charged.
  • Obviously, there might be times when you are out and about when your device loses power. You might have no choice but to plug into a public charging station.
  • The best thing to do is use your own cord and plug and put it into a wall socket.
  • You might also want to consider rationing your power by turning your device off in order to save batteries.
  • If you have to use a USB port at an airport or another public place, try to find out where the power is coming from. If the power source is hidden, it could be suspicious.
  • Don’t want to carry your cord around all of the time? You can buy a power-only USB cord, which makes it impossible for data to transfer.
  • Another idea is to buy an external battery pack. This can give you extra power for your device.
  • An exterior battery doesn’t allow for data transfers, so you can use them at kiosks without worry.
  • Use the “optimize battery” setting on your phone. It will give you a little more juice for a bit longer.
  • After plugging your device into a public USB charger, wash it with your hand sanitizer to kill any viruses. Just kidding, don’t do this. I’m kidding!

Written by Robert Siciliano, CEO of Credit Parent, Head of Training & Security Awareness Expert at Protect Now, #1 Best Selling Amazon author, Media Personality & Architect of CSI Protection Certification.

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