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The Dangers of Using Public Charging Stations

Smartphone being charged to illustrate the dangers of public charging stations
May 15, 2017

Convenience leads to danger

With the advent of public charging stations, Americans can fall prey to a new crop of cyber attacks. These charging stations are commonly found in airports, hotels, cafes, city sidewalks, stadiums, music venues and beyond. By plugging a station’s USB cable into your smartphone, you can let hackers record everything that happens on your mobile screen, including your keystrokes. With this recording, they can steal your PIN numbers, passwords, pictures, videos and more. You also run the risk of infecting your smartphone with malware.

What You
Should Know

Criminals can use public charging stations to hack into your mobile phones.

What You
Can Do

Avoid charging stations and keep a portable charger or wall charger with you in public.

More than 25% of a typical organization’s mobile devices encounter a threat each month. 1

How criminals infiltrate public charging stations

  1. Videojacking – With this tactic, criminals hide custom electronics in a public charging station. When you plug an HDMI-ready smartphone into the USB cable, hackers split the signal, then mirror and record everything you do on your screen without your knowledge.
  2. Juicejacking – Plugging your phone into a USB charging station can also infect your phone with malware. It takes only a minute for these types of programs to run. Once they’ve infected your phone, they can steal your information, even hold your data files ransom. (Learn more about dangerous USB drives here.)

Only 11% of smartphone owners surveyed carry a portable phone charger. 2

How to stay safe and charged during travel

Follow these guidelines to prevent yourself from using public charging stations.

  • Search online for your phone’s make and model to find out if it is HDMI-ready.
  • Avoid all public charging stations if your phone is HDMI-ready.
  • Purchase a portable charger to prevent yourself from using stations.
  • Carry an extra USB wall charger to safely charge your phone in public places with a standard wall jack.

How to tell if your phone has been hacked

If you end up using a charging station, stay mindful of your phone activity to see if there have been any data breaches. Though it’s not easy to detect, here are some telling signs that your phone has been infiltrated.

  • Your passwords no longer work.
  • New apps appear on your phone.
  • Random pop-ups come out of nowhere and redirect you to an install page.
  • You’re using more data than usual.
  • Your battery life has gone down significantly.
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