We have probably all been to a public building where there are signs offering a free service to plug in your device at a charging location. Without thinking, we hurriedly plug in our device to the USB, by either using our own charger or ones that are built-in. It seems very convenient when we need a little more juice for our device, and we’re sure it’s safe and secure, right?
Well, as of November 2019, this may actually be a huge security breach in your life and has even earned the term “Juice Jacking.” The Sun Sentinel reported about a video posted on Los Angeles County’s website with Deputy District Attorney Luke Sisak stating, “A free charge could end up draining your bank account.” Essentially, Juice Jacking can be one or both of these two things:
- Stealing personal data
- Installing malware onto the user’s device
Malware could not only put your personal data at risk, but could also lock your files until you pay a certain sum of money, known as Ransomware. Do not worry! This can easily be avoided! There are precautions that can be taken to ensure this does not occur on your device.
- Plug directly into the wall.
- Use a portable charger.
- Turn off data transfer.
The best precaution is to carry a charging brick with you so you can plug into a normal plugin; there is no way for data to be transferred this way. You may think that turning off data transfer in your settings will 100% guarantee the threat is eliminated, but that’s not entirely true. Keep in mind that even with data transfer turned off, it is still possible (unlikely, but possible) a hacker could get into your phone. The use of a portable charger is a great way to avoid possible security threats because you can also charge up on the go. All you have to do is use the portable charger to plug into the public USB or charging cord, then plug your device into your portable charger. The portable charger acts as a middle man and won’t allow for the reading or transfer of data of any kind.
These are just a few ways to keep your information safe. Technology is changing all the time, and it’s important to remember to always be aware of outside threats.
Copyright © 2020 Central Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.
Thanks for sharing this article. Having spent many professional years in the cyber security industry and now in the public charging station industry, I wanted to share a few thoughts around ‘juice jacking’ and the media storm that has misrepresented the threat of ‘juice jacking’.
Juice jacking is a term that has been around for years. It only resurfaced in November 2019 because the Los Angeles DA was filling his spot on his weekly Friday “security tips”. This November, the term will once again resurface — right before the busiest travel days of the years and biggest shopping season of the year. It’s a never-ending, yearly cycle.
The attacker would have to physically install malware on individual cables and plug those cables into a power bank and wall outlet, usb outlet, or wherever else a usb connection is possible. It’s very unlikely that juice jacking will actually ever be a threat — it’s a lot of effort for an attacker to do this, then go back and collect the cables to get whatever information they might have stolen. There is only (I believe) one reported case of juice jacking on the East coast.
You’re much more likely to have your information stolen through a larger scale breach. Think of it this way — is an attacker going to spend hours installing malware on a few cables and physically put them out in the wild only to steal information from a handful of people OR are they going to spend time sending phishing emails and using other tactics to steal information of thousands and millions of people?
99% of the time it’s going to be the latter.
The first sentence points out that public charging stations exist and often have a sign or a message that says “free charging station” or “courtesy charging station”. With legitimate companies that sell public charging stations to businesses, there is no threat of ‘juice jacking’. Especially if those suppliers include the charging cables which are secured inside the station — you have to take the station a part in order to change out the cables.
There are hundreds of thousands of public charging stations deployed nationally and globally. It’s a 100% secure charging option for public spaces.
Hi Danielle! Thank you for your comment and for sharing your knowledge. The feeling of security is a good feeling.