Business & Economy Technology Public USB charging ports may pose a security threat

Public USB charging ports may pose a security threat

Authorities warn that criminals can hijack these public charging ports or cables with malware thereby infecting the unsuspecting traveller's phone, laptop, or other electronic device

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A traveller’s most reliable companion is their mobile phone which is why they are always on the lookout to keep their phones fully-charged.

Many travellers often rely on public USB charging ports to charge their phones to get through long hours of travel. These USB charging ports or cables are usually found in hotels, cafes, airport kiosks, or on the airplane seat’s arm rest.

However, authorities warn that criminals can hijack these public charging ports or cables with malware thereby infecting the unsuspecting traveller’s phone, laptop, or other electronic device.

Cybersecurity experts refer to it as “juice jacking.”

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Juice jacking happens when unsuspecting travellers use a public USB charging port or cable. The infected port/cable can either install malware into the traveller’s device or steal their data immediately.

Even if the phone is charged for just a couple of minutes, the malware can already scan the phone and steal personally identifiable information (PII) like account passwords and banking credentials within seconds.

Other forms of malware can mine the phone’s power for crytocurrency, install ransomware which holds the data hostage for a hefty price, or install spyware which can track and monitor any activity on the infected phone.

“Just as you wouldn’t plug an unfamiliar USB drive into your laptop, you shouldn’t plug your phone into an unfamiliar USB charger,” said privacy advocate Paul Bischoff in a report by the Los Angeles Times.

When caught in public with a low or dead battery, it would be much safer to use one’s own charging cable and plug it to an electric outlet rather than the USB ports. Experts also suggest bringing a spare battery or power bank for long-haul travels.

Cybercriminals often do not have specific targets. They just need desperate or unsuspecting users. Best be on your guard when travelling! -/TISG

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