When your phone is running low on battery, public charging stations can save the day. But these blessings can quickly turn into a curse when hackers steal your data through USB outlets.
Public charging stations, like the ones in airports, hotels, cafés, and train stations, are not always safe. When you plug in your phone, hackers can infect your phone with malware or extract personal information from your device. It is not a very common practice, but you should still be aware of the risk.
In a perfect world, you would always have a portable power bank and your charging cable on hand to give your phone an extra boost, but that’s not usually the case. Fortunately, you can take precautions to protect your personal information.
What Is a USB Data Blocker?
A USB data blocker is a device that plugs into the charging port on your phone, acting as a shield between the public charging station’s cord and your phone. USB data blockers, also known as USB condoms, restrict hackers from accessing your phone’s data.
With data blockers, the physical data lines that run through the cords in public charging kiosks, which hackers use to install malicious code on your phone or steal your data, are taken out of the equation. The physical data lines don’t touch your phone because the USB data blocker is shielding it.
Why Data Blockers Are Important
A USB port is more than a power socket for your phone. It is also used to transfer files between your phone and another device, such as a computer. So, when you use public charging stations with a USB, you might be unconsciously giving permission for the USB port to transfer data to and from your phone.
When a charging kiosk is used to install malware or steal personal data from a phone or tablet, this is called “juice jacking.” It’s been a common practice for many years, yet many people don’t understand the risk of using public charging stations — or they need a charge and a public charging station is their only option.
USB data blockers are beneficial because they block data transfer, protecting your phone from malicious software and the extraction of your sensitive data, including photos and saved passwords, from hackers.
USB data blockers should be used whenever you connect your phone to a public charging station or public computer.
Other Measures You Can Take to Secure Your Devices
A USB data blocker protects your personal data from public charging station hackers, but there are other steps you can take to keep your data safe:
- Turn your phone off when using a charger that is not yours. Always deny the request to allow the cable to be used for data transfer when using a foreign charging station.
- Use a VPN when connected to a public Wi-Fi network.
- Avoid signing into private accounts when using public computers (including your email, social media accounts, and bank account). If you must sign in, make sure you sign out when you finish your session.
- When disposing of a computer or mobile device, remove all of the personal information stored inside by transferring the information to a new device and overwriting the hard drive or removing the SIM card.
- Use strong passwords and regularly update them.
- If you need to send information using public Wi-Fi, check to see if your information will be protected. The website should be encrypted or you should be using a secure wireless network.
- Don’t send personal data such as credit card information, Social Security numbers, or account login information over text or email.
Data security is crucial. Once a hacker gains access to just one of your accounts, they can quickly break into your other accounts. You can avoid the tragedy of having your bank funds or Social Security information stolen by taking simple precautions, such as bringing a USB data blocker whenever you’re traveling or out and about town.