Avoid ‘juice jacking’ to keep your personal data secure

Hackers are using public USB chargers to install malware which targets your mobile device

Faisal Khan
Nov 28, 2019 · 3 min read

With the ever-connected world, keeping your data secure has become a huge challenge. The cybercriminals are becoming ever so smarter at ways to steal your personal information. And the most vulnerable places that they target are public places like airports, hotels, shopping malls, public libraries, etc. While we are ever so thankful to find free public wifi or mobile chargers in these spots — the convenience, unfortunately, comes at a hefty price.

In a recent malware report Mobile Malware and APT Espionage: Prolific, Pervasive, and Cross-Platform, mobile company BlackBerry has highlighted how advanced persistent threat (APT) groups have been leveraging the mobile malware to their nefarious espionage campaigns. The report talks in detail about several previously unidentified APT attack campaigns that have targeted sensitive civilian & military institutions in several countries (chart below).

As evident from the data in chart mobile malware attacks have become very common. The report suggests that this emanates from people trusting their mobile devices much more than their desktop computers. Hackers, on the other hand, are cashing in on our complacency with the use of our mobile devices.

It happens to all of us every now & then, we are out and about and the cell phone battery runs low. We begin to panic and try to find the first public charging station to juice up the mobile device. While the charging station in that public spot might be a big relief for us, we are exposing ourselves to ‘juice jacking’.

The term refers to a popular new ploy by cybercriminals to install malware into your mobile device via those public USB chargers to steal your personal data and passwords. You know the problem has become more than a nuisance when authorities send out public warning messages like the one we saw from The Los Angeles District Attorney about USB charger scams.

Here are some things you can do to avoid juice jacking:

  • Keep your mobile devices charged at all times. This way you don’t have to rush around to find a public charger.
  • Carry an extra charger or have one in the car to top up your mobile device before getting off.
  • Invest in a personal power bank that you can use to power your mobile device when you are out & about.
  • If you absolutely have to charge your mobile device at a public spot, use the standard plug power outlets rather than USB charging stations to reduce the risk.
  • Although public USB chargers should be avoided, if it becomes imperative to use one, make sure the phone is locked since locked phones can’t pair with the device connected to it & therefore avoid any data transfer.
  • Try investing in a device like a USB condom — which can be inserted between a USB port and a device being charged to prevent juice jacking attacks.

Next time be aware of the security risk, think twice before plugging in a public USB charger.


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Faisal Khan

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Content Specialist in Cryptocurrencies | Blockchain | Financial Markets | Technology | Future | Science | Space

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