What is Juice Jacking? And how does it affect your smartphone when you plug it into a public phone charging station?
If you have ever been out and about away from home or running errands, you’ve probably had your phone’s battery drain on you right when you needed it most. When this inconvenient situation arises, you might run straight for a handy public cell phone charging station to fill up your phone’s battery quickly. For this reason, charging stations have become an essential part of airports, malls, and other public places. However, people have begun to worry whether public phone charging stations pose potential risks to their data and security.
Experts on data privacy have identified that it is possible for people with malicious intent to steal data off of your phone through phone charging stations. This practice has been given a name: juice jacking. In this article, we will examine what juice jacking is, how to protect yourself and your data from potential risks in public, and how ChargeTech charging stations protect the privacy of the user.
What is Juice Jacking?
Juice Jacking is when hackers either load malware or steal data from user’s phones through the USB cables in public phone charging stations. This act can happen wherever public phone charging stations are located and present a security risk for smartphone users everywhere such as airports, hotels, sporting events, and other public venues.
It is important to note that there are no known cases of juice jacking occurring, however, it is still important to be aware of the potential risks and how to protect yourself and your data.
Juice jacking is facilitated through the usage of data transfer capable USB cables in public cell phone charging stations. If hackers have access to data transfer cables connected to your phone, then they could possibly acquire your personal emails, passwords, and even banking information. While many believe that computers are the only electronic devices capable of being hacked, juice jacking represents a new way for cybercriminals to gain access to the personal content stored on smartphones.
There are certain things to look out for when using a public phone charging station to keep yourself safe from public jacking and practice cyber safety for your smartphone.
Public Juice Jacking & How it Can Affect You
To showcase the potential danger to smartphone users posed by juice jacking, NBC News constructed a simulated cell phone charging station where a cybersecurity expert was able to access user’s devices, view and record everything on their phone screens just from the individuals plugging their devices into a phone charging station. Clearly, the participants in the study were alarmed by this invasion of their privacy and were made privy to the potential security problems in using a public phone charging station.
As demonstrated by NBC, this presents a huge information risk, particularly for people who are on the go frequently and often rely on phone charging stations in airports, malls, and other public spaces. However, cybercriminals can utilize juice-jacking to do more than just record a smartphone screen. A similar article detailing the effects of juice-jacking from the website Malwarebytes described the amount of potential access hackers could get from someone plugging their phone into an unsecured public phone charging station.
“A cybercriminal could breach an unsecured kiosk using malware, then drop an additional payload that steals information from connected devices. There are crawlers that can search your phone for personally identifiable information (PII), account credentials, banking-related or credit card data in seconds. There are also many malicious apps that can clone all of one phone’s data to another phone, using a Windows or Mac computer as a middleman. So, if that’s what is hiding on the other end of the USB port, a threat actor could get all they need to impersonate you.”
All of that is a bit frightening and may have you questioning whether or not it is safe to use public phone charging stations. Fortunately, ChargeTech products, including our cell phone charging stations are designed with consumer privacy in mind, keeping users 100% safe when charging at a ChargeTech phone charging station is a top priority.
How do ChargeTech Products Combat Juice Jacking?
ChargeTech charging stations pose no risk to users’ data because our USB charging cords are equipped with charging capabilities only. While a standard charging cord, such as an Apple USB to Lightning cord, can be plugged into a computer and used to transmit information between devices, ChargeTech charging cables have no such capability, making our public phone charging station products, like the S9 Power Floor Stand, WM9 Wall Mount Charging Station and Phone Charging Table/Station safe from juice jacking. These products pose no risk to users, letting smartphone users charge their device with peace of mind, knowing their data is not at risk from hackers and cyber-criminals.
The Difference Between Data Transfer USB Cords and Charging USB Cords
No data transfer can occur with a ChargeTech product, as the cords used in our phone charging stations are charge only, keeping users safe from malicious hackers. An article on the website Dignited explains the difference between USB charging cords and USB data transfer capable cords thusly:
“What differentiates a charge-only USB cable from a data cable is how they are produced. More precisely, their wiring system — the number of wires within the cable.
Data cables typically contain four wires (positive, negative, data transfer & data receive). The positive (+) and negative (-) wires carry electric power to the device while the other two data transfer (D+) and data receive (D-) wires are responsible for data exchange. Charge-only cables, on the other hand, only have the positive and negative power wires but lack the data exchange wires.”
ChargeTech solely produces charging products with charge-only USB cables, which means that our charging products are safe from juice jacking. ChargeTech is fully committed to user’s privacy and security and have designed our products with these protocols in mind. Users can charge their phones risk-free from any ChargeTech cell phone charging station and can rest assured that their private information is safe from cybercriminals.
Despite the protections we design our products with, not every public cell phone charging station is made with ChargeTech’s level of user security. However, there are several ways you can avoid juice jacking in public spaces and keep your smartphones safe when you find yourself with a non ChargeTech product.
Ways You Can Defend Yourself From Juice Jacking
Not every other cell phone charging station contains the same level of security as ChargeTech’s charging products and as seen above, it is difficult for the naked eye to differentiate between charge-only cables and data-transfer cables. Because of this, other precautions can be taken against juice jacking while charging your phone away from home risk-free. Though few instances of juice jacking have been documented in public spaces, as described by both NBC and MalwareBytes, there is the potential for juice jacking in public, and smart-phone users should know how to protect themselves.
Using Portable Chargers
One such solution to avoid juice jacking is a portable charger like ChargeTech’s Portable Power Outlet or Portable Power Supply, available on the ChargeTech website. By bringing a portable charger with you in public spaces like sporting events, hotels, malls, libraries, and at the airport, you can avoid using a potential data transfer cord or malicious phone charger outlet at a cell phone charging station. Instead, you will have a safe and easy way to keep your phone charged away from home at all times.
ChargeTech offers a variety of portable chargers and wireless battery packs that work with modern needs offering a charging solution for anyone who is on the move and needs portable power. These products include the Portable Power Outlet AM 27K, the Antimicrobial Portable Power Supply 54K and the 10K USB-C Wireless Battery Pack. ChargeTech has a variety of options for portable power that fit the varied needs of smartphone users everywhere. Owning a ChargeTech portable power supply puts the capability in your hands to charge your phone wherever you go, without having to worry about hackers juice jacking your information.
Using a Data Blocker
Another way to protect yourself against juice jacking is the use of USB data blockers, a small device that can be purchased relatively cheaply and placed on any USB cord before plugging it into a public USB charging outlet. This functions as a safeguard for plugging into a public phone charging outlet, like one that might be found on an Airplane or other forms of public transport, like a city bus or subway. These inexpensive products have been found to be effective and allow smartphone users to plug into any cell phone charging station or USB charging outlet without any potential security ramifications.
Should You Worry About Juice Jacking?
With the number of hackers and cyber-criminals actively trying to steal people’s information, juice jacking seems like a disturbing new extension of this behavior, accessing data through smartphones instead of computers. The good news is that instances of public juice jacking have been relatively low and represent more of a “what if” scenario for smartphone users, as opposed to a normal occurrence that happens whenever someone plugs into a public phone charging station.
However, ChargeTech works carefully to create products that protect users from data breaches such as juice jacking, prizing user’s privacy above all. As long as you are plugging into a ChargeTech phone charging station or portable power supply, you are safe from any potential juice jacking. ChargeTech products prioritize user privacy, making certain that charging your device with our phone charging stations and portable power outlets is simple, convenient, and safe.