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  • Much of what happens at airports tends to feel vaguely illegal if not explicitly so.

  • After all, where else in the world can TSA agents grope you with abandon, baggage handlers

  • receive unrestricted access to your luggage or stores charge you prices so high there's

  • a good chance you'll come down with altitude sickness?

  • But on top of the over-the-top fees, underhanded luggage handlers, and handsy TSA agents, there's

  • yet another far less obvious threat you have to worry about at airports: the USB ports.

  • It turns out that the seemingly harmless activity of charging your smartphone at a public kiosk

  • can leave you vulnerable to cyber crime.

  • So what's the problem?

  • In a couple of words: "juice jacking."

  • "Speak English, doc, we ain't scientists!"

  • Now, juice jacking may sound like a particularly seductive way to squeeze an orange, but really,

  • it's a whole different kind of naughty.

  • How-to Geek explains that because your smartphones use the same USB cable for charging and transmitting

  • data, hackers can access information on your phone or upload malware via the USB port while

  • you're charging your device.

  • Hence, they're hijacking your phone as it replenishes its energy, or "juice".

  • And unfortunately, juice jacking isn't all that difficult or time-consuming for hackers

  • to do.

  • Speaking at a BlackHat security conference in 2016, researchers Billy Lau, YeongJin Jang,

  • and Chengyu Song described:

  • "We demonstrate how an iOS device can be compromised within one minute of being plugged into a

  • malicious charger.

  • We show how an attacker can hide their software in the same way Apple hides its own built-in

  • applications."

  • These three researchers had previously built a juice jacking device out of a small computer

  • known as a BeagleBoard, which can be purchased for as little as $45, showing just how easily

  • a sufficiently shrewd hacker could give themselves the means to get inside your phone.

  • Alarmingly, a BeagleBoard is just about small enough to fit right inside a USB hub or charging

  • dock.

  • To make matters worse, even after you've unplugged your device from the compromised cable, the

  • kiosk you just used to recharge your iPhone can retain a Wi-Fi connection with your disconnected

  • iOS device.

  • That means that once a hacker has gotten a foot in the door, they could potentially open

  • the electronic floodgates.

  • How-to Geek calls juice jacking "a largely theoretical threat" with "a very low" probability

  • of occurring at an airport kiosk you might use.

  • But the Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security, Caleb Barlow, has warned

  • that:

  • "Plugging into a public USB port is kind of like finding a toothbrush on the side of the

  • road and deciding to stick it in your mouth.

  • You have no idea where that thing has been."

  • To protect your phone from being broken into by malicious airside parties, Barlow recommends

  • investing in a device called a Juice-Jack Defender, which is a kind of protective dongle

  • you put in front of your charging cord.

  • Similarly, Harvard University's Bruce Schneier suggests using the so-called USB Condom when

  • charging your phone at airport kiosks.

  • Alternatively, you could pack a portable battery or personal charger, and avoid using the charging

  • kiosk altogether.

  • In case you take your chances with an airport kiosk and want to use protection, Krebs on

  • Security reviewed the Juice-Jack Defender and the USB Condom, both of which are designed

  • to thwart would-be juice jackers.

  • Describing the devices as "prophylactics," Krebs notes that both are equipped "with male

  • and female USB adapters at either end" and are functionally "indistinguishable" despite

  • "slight" differences in size, shape, and texture.

  • But that's not to say they're totally identical.

  • According to Krebs, the Juice-Jack Defender is a little smaller than the USB Condom, but

  • what it lacks in size, it makes up for in durability.

  • Meanwhile, however, the USB Condom seemed a bit more likely to stop working altogether.

  • So while these two devices do have a few minor differences, these seem to be mostly negligible,

  • and each should prove effective in ensuring that your phone won't come down with a nasty

  • virus next time you're hanging out at the airport.

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Much of what happens at airports tends to feel vaguely illegal if not explicitly so.

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B1 US usb juice charging kiosk device condom

Why You Should Avoid Airport USB Charging Stations

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    Helena posted on 2019/11/26
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