Beware: Charging Your Phone In Public May Not Be Safe!
If you’re like most people, you use your smartphone for everything, everyday! Even if it’s just there in case of emergencies having a charged cellphone can provide a serious sense of security. That’s why when the battery meter starts to tick down, a cold sense of panic rises in your stomach.
Many public places have begun to adapt to this change, and provide USB ports in addition to electrical outlets. Sadly, this wonderful public good has become a playground for thieves. Scammers have hooked tiny computers into some of those ports. When you plug your phone in, they can install malicious programs on your phone. These programs report back personally identifiable information that thieves use to commit identity theft. Alternately, thieves can use the connection to your phone to look through your phone’s contents, stealing browser history data — including passwords. It’s called “Juice Jacking,” and it can take as little as three minutes for them to break your phone wide open.
It’s a phenomenon so new, even security experts are getting suckered. At a recent digital security conference, one security firm ran an experiment by offering public charging cables that anyone could use. Surprisingly, 80% of security experts at the conference used these cables without once inquiring about security!
Obviously, these scammers aren’t everywhere. They choose places where they can do the most damage — airports, coffee shops, shopping malls and other places where people hang out. If you’re at a place you trust, feel free to use the power. However, if you’re in a public place, watch out! Use these tips to stay safe and avoid Juice Jackers.
1. Carry (or borrow) a power plug
The easiest way to thwart the scam is to only plug your phone into electrical outlets. There’s no computer on the other side. Yes, it’s a hassle to carry one more thing, but it’s worth it to avoid compromising your personal information. Shop around to find a compact converter and keep it in your bag. If a power plug is a real hassle, only carry it when your phone is low on juice. In a pinch, you can also borrow a plug from a laptop user.
2. Pick up a battery
Consider carrying your power solutions with you. Advancements in battery technology have made them smaller and more efficient than ever. A battery pack the size of a pen can completely charge your smartphone. Slightly larger packs can provide several days’ worth of charge.
You can also keep a battery pack in your glove compartment. That way, you get the security of knowing you’ve got a charge when you need one without having to lug it around.
3. Conserve Power
The easiest way to avoid using a public charging station is not to need one in the first place. There are several things you can do to save your phone’s charge if it’s running low, like changing your wallpaper to all black. For slightly more savings, keep your apps updated. Running outdated software could be chewing up your battery life. Similarly, don’t enable auto-update. This can quickly drain data while also burning through battery life. Update apps manually when you’re connected to WiFi, or just disable automatic updates if your battery situation is dicey.
Learn more about online safety. Check out these tips for keeping your financial accounts secure.
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