When Traveling, Beware of This

Experts warn against using public USB charging stations
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2020 3:00 PM CST
When Traveling, Beware of This
Stock image.   (Getty Images)

Travel much? You may already know not to fire up your devices on free USB public charging stations, but if not, here's the warning: "Depending on the vulnerability they exploit, they would have access to everything you would have access to on your phone," cybersecurity pro Jim Stickley tells NBC News. According to Stickley, hackers can implant malware in a charging station that "jacks" information from your device (think passwords, phone numbers) in a practice called "juice jacking." And Stickley's not alone: "You might have seen a public USB charging station at an airport or shopping center," LA County Deputy DA Luke Sisak said back in November. "But be warned, a free charge could end up draining your bank account."

Stickley showed NBC News how it works by installing hardware in a charging station at the Port of San Diego in Southern California. When travelers plugged into the station, he could see their phone activities on his own small device—including an entered credit card number and access to private email, which can then be used for password resets. "Having access to your email has become very valuable, because, if you think about it, every account you have requires access to your email," he said. "Everybody's login is your email, and that's the problem." Last year, the New York Times gave travelers this advice: Only charge with portable batteries or straight from an electrical outlet. Or, as ZDNet explains, buy a "USB condom" to protect devices when using a USB charger. (Read more hacking stories.)

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