Juice Jacking: Do you practice safe charging?

For at least the past five years “juice jacking” has been fairly well known in the security community.  Juice jacking is a term to describe stealing data from or implanting malicious data on mobile devices when they are plugged into a “charging kiosk”.

Anyone who has traveled in the past few years has seen these kiosks setup in airports, hotels, concerts, conferences, and other public areas.  They are becoming so common that it is hardly though about who installed it.

In 2011 the folks at Wall of Sheep tested people at security conferences by installing a hoax kiosk that captured information off cell phones that were plugged into charge.  Even at a security conference, many people plugged in.

So how do you prevent this type of attack?  Well, one choice is to abstain from using these kiosks.  But come on, we know you’re going to be weak.  You’ll be sitting in the airport with a slowly fading battery.  The kiosk will entice you.

Another option is to practice safe charging using a device like a USB condom (yes, it is real thing.)  The device blocks the data connections on the USB device, only allowing the power connections through.  This guarantees that no one can read or write data to or from your device.

A third option is to not use the kiosks directly.  Many now carry around a simple battery charger like this (I’m not endorsing that brand, just providinng an example.)  These are so common that they sell them at convenience stores now.  Plug that device into the kiosk, then use the device to charge your phone.

Which ever route you choose, think first, then charge.