Traveling for the holidays? Watch out for juice jacking!
Ever since 9/11, long and slow security lines are a common sight at airports across the country and around the globe.
And now that nearly everyone in the world has a cellphone, there’s another very familiar scene at airports.
I’m talking about people searching for and using USB charging stations for their phones and other devices.
Because these stations are few and far between at many airports, people crowd around them to gain much-needed power. Others walk by filled kiosks, wishing they could be doing the same.
Free power could end up costing you
The best thing about these charging stations is they are free. The worst thing about them is that they might end up costing you a lot.
If that makes no sense to you, you might not be familiar with a disturbing trend happening at airports around the U.S. Not to mention at hotels, malls and cafes.
It’s called “juice jacking.” And no, it’s not about having someone steal your apple juice when you’re not looking.
Juice jacking is a type of cyber attack involving a charging port that doubles as a data connection, typically over USB.
Data theft is big concern
Here’s how cyber criminals are using it to infect your devices and steal your data.
They use both USB plugs provided at airport charging stations and random outlets to install malware into your phone without your knowledge.
These criminals may also leave chargers and USB sticks with malware built into them for unsuspecting victims to use.
When the victim plugs his phone into the charger, the hacker gains access to his device within seconds. At that point, if you plug your phone into your computer, the hacker now has access to all the information you’ve stored on it.
Airport officials issue warning
With the holidays approaching, airports across the country will be crowded. Which means many people will be using charging stations to power up their cellphones and other devices.
And this could mean a field day for cyber criminals who would like to cash in on this strategy for sabotaging and stealing from the unsuspecting.
It’s gotten so bad that officials are warning airport visitors to avoid using public USB charging stations.
“A free charge could end up draining your bank account.” That’s a message from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
‘A really simple scam’
Depending on the type of malware that is used, an infected device could be locked or even taken over.
It can then be used to send private and potentially sensitive data to these cyber criminals. Such as bank account information and passwords.
Robert Siciliano is a security expert. Here’s what he says. “It’s a really simple scam where bad guys will infect the chargers so that when you plug your device in, that virus goes right onto your device and it spies on everything you do.
“The bad guy could see everything.” That includes usernames, passwords, credit cards, websites visited and much more.
Private info not so private
“Anywhere there is a charging device, whether I’m in the hotel or airport, you need to be aware and know that it’s a possibility you could get a virus,” Siciliano added.
Some of these criminals are brazen. Last summer, one hacker was selling an iPhone lightning cable called the “O.MG Cable” for $200.
The hacker claimed this cable was capable of taking control of any Mac computer. Thereby remotely gaining access to a user’s private information.
What’s the solution?
So, what do I do if my cellphone or other electronic device needs charging while I’m at an airport?
Cyber experts and D.A. officials shared a few tips to keep devices and data safe.
But they both agree the the single best thing you can do is pull your portal battery pack out – which you charged in the safety of your home – and use that to power your devices.
Our top recommendation is the Patriot Power Cell.
This pocket-sized phone charger is a handheld device about the size of a phone. The front is a big solar panel that can charge without being plugged into the wall. Just sit it in the sun and the sun's rays do all the work.
And it can charge a phone up to 6 times or even two phones at once on a single charge.