Many of us have used the handy USB charging stations at airports, however, new research from IBM security has revealed that cyber criminals are modifying the USB connections to install malware on your phone or download data without your knowledge.
“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,” says Caleb Barlow, Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security. “And remember that that USB port can pass data.”
Whilst this may seem a little paranoid, Barlow says it’s smart to worry about public USB power stations. The 2019 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index has revealed the transportation industry has become a priority target for cybercriminals; it has risen to the 2nd most attacked
industry – up from tenth in 2017. Frighteningly, over 566 million records from the transportation and travel industry have been compromised or leaked in publicly reported breaches.
So what should you do when you see that tell-tale ‘battery low’ warning on your mobile phone when travelling?
The safest course of action is to bring your own charger along and plug it in to a wall outlet, or bring a portable power bank to recharge your phone. Or (perish the thought!) let your battery go flat and wait until you arrive at your destination before recharging.
If you insist on using a public USB port, Barlow recommends a dongle called a Juice Jack Defender that essentially blocks any data from passing down the cord.