How safe are public charging stations for your mobile?

How safe are public charging stations for your mobile? A very common issue of our daily life. Your cell-phone is running out of battery, you need to make an urgent call but left the charger at home. What do you do next? Think twice before you plug in your phone at charging stations. Beware, you can be a victim of Juice Jacking.
If you are at an airport, railway station or at the shopping mall, it is not that big a problem because these places often have charging stations installed that can be used to charge the battery of almost any mobile phone.
It doesn’t matter whether your phone requires a Micro-USB connector, a Mini-USB or a 2mm charger, the kiosk will have a suitable charging port for you. Mobile charging stations are convenient but at the same time, there’s a level of security risk associated with them.

How safe are public charging stations for your mobile?

How safe are public charging stations for your mobile?

Here’s Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone at a Public Charging Station!
It is important to realize that there are substantial differences in security and quality between charging station providers. Not all phone charging stations are created equal.
Public mobile charging stations are common in crowded places. Telecom operators in India also provide charging stations for mobile handsets. Users, who find that their handsets are running out of battery, find these stations useful and happily plug in their mobile for charging. However, it may not be as safe and secure as it appears.
And the most common way is via “pluggable” USB wall chargers that can be plugged into an AC socket by attackers to leave malware at public charging stations.
There may be hackers behind these public charging stations, who may be waiting to steal information from your mobile, a process known as juice jacking.
Juice jacking involves a charging port that doubles as a data connection, typically, over USB. Through this, hackers either install malware or surreptitiously copy sensitive data from a smartphone, tablet or other computer device.

What is Juice Jacking?

How safe are public charging stations for your mobile?

In simple words, Juice Jacking is an attack carried out by hackers through a USB charging cable. When a user plugs in the charging cable in his mobile’s charging port and connects it to any of the rigged charging stations installed at public spaces such as airports, train stations, hotels, cafes, etc – it gives a back-door entry to hackers into the compromised device.
The charging port which is also used for data transfer over the USB is pointed as the main cause of concern over here. Installing malware, cleaning user data, asking ransom in exchange for access to personal data on the phone, personal and financial account hijacking are just some of the many nefarious things that a hacker can do with this unrestricted access.

How to protect your phone or device against Juice Jacking?

How safe are public charging stations for your mobile?

# Avoid using public charging stations. These are soft targets for hackers as they are often kept unguarded and without any surveillance. Even while using them, go behind the charging station and check the power source of the USB ports.
# Always use your own AC charging adapter and cable for charging the device. And be sure to plug it into the AC wall socket, and not the USB socket on the wall.
# Stay guarded against a stranger’s device and laptop. Do not connect with an unknown person’s laptop or PC for charging your electronic devices and vice-versa.
# For emergency situations, buy a good-quality power bank with sufficient capacity (above 10,000 milliampere-hour – mAh).
# It may be difficult to find, but try to use a cable that can be used only as a charging cable and not a data cable. This can be a task as almost all mobile devices come with a charger that is capable of charging as well as data transfer.
# Frequent travelers should use a USB blocker. It is a small device that blocks the data connection on the USB cable by blocking its data pins.
# Use USB Killer, this device, when plugged into any unprotected computer device (or mobile through on-the-go or OTG), can instantly and permanently disable the target hardware.
USB Killer
When plugged into a device, the USB Killer rapidly charges its capacitors from the USB power lines. When the device is charged, -200VDC is discharged over the data lines of the host device. This charge/discharge cycle is repeated many times per second until the USB Killer is removed.

Notably

It is however relatively simple to keep your phone secure even while charging it at a public kiosk. Just remember to power off your phone completely before connecting it to the charging station and you should be safe.
Try to buy chargers that claim to provide more power for charging. Some of the ‘fast charging’ chargers, manufactured by companies other than the device-makers, claim to provide 18 watts or more.
However, beware of such false claims. If there is no built-in protection in the charger, it may get burned or even fry your mobile device as well.

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