Tech & The Web

Have You Heard the Warning About Public USB Ports?


I was surprised to catch an article warning people about the use of public USB ports at airports and other public places.

Don’t rely on public USB ports to charge your devices while you’re traveling. The message caught me by surprise. Normally, I try to stay ahead on such alerts.

The few times I actually travel, I do some times plug my device into an airport charging station. But when I do, I use an actual AC power cord, not a USB port. (Though for many devices, all you need to charge is a USB cable.)

But if you plug in directly to a USB port, it could cause your data to be compromised.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office released a warning about it earlier this month.

In the USB Charger Scam, often called “juice jacking,” criminals load malware onto charging stations or cables they leave plugged in at the stations so they may infect the phones and other electronic devices of unsuspecting users.

“The malware may lock the device or export data and passwords directly to the scammer,” the warning states.

I’ve never heard of “juice jacking,” but somehow the idea doesn’t surprise me. It seems hackers are always looking for ways to get access, even when you least expect it.

Back in May, Lifehacker reported that plugging into power outlets rather than public USB ports is a safer option. When you only have the USB port as an option, there’s such a thing as a “USB condom.” 

I never heard of a USB condom, either.

It’s a device that you plug in between a port and the charging cable. Essentially, it turns off any USB port pins that transmit data. It leaves active pins that transfer power. That way, you’re only getting the juice with no jacking of data.

Even with a device recharge, don’t forget your protection!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.