By Maria Martinez
Blog Content Contributor
We have all been there. We have all waited for a concert to start, a flight to depart, a meeting with our boss or even for a professor to begin a class. And all this waiting just means, seeing our phone batteries slowly draining, wishing we had somewhere to plug it in, before it’s too late.
Luckily Free USB charging ports are popping up all over the place these days. They have saved me and a million others, in malls, airports, parks, conference centers and libraries. Though they may be convenient, they’re not always the safest option.
According to a new CNN report, plugging your phone into a public charging station could actually make you more vulnerable to hackers. Just by plugging your phone into a hacked power strip or charger, your device could get infected. I know it sounds sketchy but I’ll explain how this works.
The cable that is used to charge your cell phone, is also used to send data from your phone to other devices. USB’s are designed to transfer data, for instance when you plug your iPhone into your Mac with the charging cord, you can download photos from your phone to your computer.
To be clear, the threat has to do with public charging stations with USB cables, USB power adapters, and USB ports; This does not include wall power outlets or your own cable.
If a port is compromised, there’s no limit to what information a hacker could take. That includes your email, text messages, photos and contacts. The process is reportedly called “juice jacking.”
It’s pretty scary and unluckily, there’s no real way to tell if a port has been hacked or not. So the best way to ensure your privacy, is to avoid using those public charging ports, no matter how convenient they may be. If you know you are going to be in a situation in which your phone’s battery may die, bring your own USB cable and your own USB power adapter, and plug them directly into the wall power outlet. You can also invest in your own portable battery pack.
Featured illustration by Joseph Bonney.