Never Plug Your Phone Into Public Charging Ports. A Security Expert Explains Why.

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We live in a day and age where charging ports have become more than a luxury; they’ve become a necessity, especially to those who travel often. Airports are one of the primary spots to find USB charging ports with thousands of people using them on a daily basis, but is it safe to plug your device into these public charging ports?

Security experts discourage the public from using these USB charging stations as they could risk “juice jacking,” a practice which allows malware to be put on a device from the USB connection used to charge the phone, according to Forbes.

Caleb Barlow, who is Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security, explained the dangers of these public charging ports. “Plugging into a public USB port is kind of like finding a toothbrush on the side of the road and deciding to stick it in your mouth. You have no idea where that thing has been.”

One major point most people seem to be unaware of is how data can be transferred using the USB port. For instance, when someone plugs in a device into the computer, they typically use a USB cable. So, in essence, plugging the device into these public charging ports is no different than plugging a device into a random stranger’s laptop.

These malware attacks are much more prevalent at airports as more people tend to use them out of necessity. Security experts suggest people use their own charging cables in an effort to minimize these attacks.

According to the Daily Mail, there are countless charging cables that are securely packaged that can be used instead. Barlow suggests buying a Juice-Jack Defender, which only costs approximately $10.

Barlow explained: “It’s a little dongle you can put in front of your charging cord that basically blocks any data from passing down the cord. It only passes the voltage.”

In addition, it’s suggested that users do not use any charging USB cables left behind by others as there could already be malware on the cable. All a criminal needs is for someone to use the cable.