Public Phone Charging Stations Can Be Hacked

By:  |  Category: Blog Friday, February 7th, 2020  |  No Comments

We all run out of juice on our smartphones. Maybe we forgot our charging cord or our wireless charger?–but now, it’s crisis time.

You notice a free public charging station and sigh with relief. But maybe you should think twice? Experts are now warning that powering up could give hackers a way into your personal information.

“Depending on the vulnerability they exploit, they would have access to everything you would have access to on your phone,” said cybersecurity expert Jim Stickley.

Coined “juice jacking” in the industry, the stealing of your private data occurs when people plug in to “juice” up their phones and hackers use malware in the charging station or USB cable to “jack” their information, such as phone numbers and passwords.

The scam has prompted lead authorities, including the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, to discourage the public to plug in at places like airports or malls.

“You might have seen a public USB charging station at an airport or shopping center. But be warned, a free charge could end up draining your bank account,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Luke Sisak said in a video warning in November.

To illustrate how easy it can be for a bad actor to gain access to a charging phone, Stickley showed NBC News a simulation he set up along the Port of San Diego in Southern California. Through special hardware installed in a homemade charging station, Stickley was able to watch and record everything being shown on the screen of a connected phone.

NBC News correspondent Vicky Nguyen volunteered as the first victim.

“Now we get to the best part. She’s actually entering in her credit card number,” Stickley said as he watched Nguyen shop on Home Depot online.

Over a four-hour span, dozens of people dropped by the makeshift charging station to charge their phones. Some were dismayed when they were told it was a setup.

One woman who watched her personal Facebook messages pop up on a separate monitor in a matter of minutes was horrified.

“It’s dangerous,” the woman proclaimed.

Stickley said her response is hardly uncommon.

“Most people assume their computers can be hacked,” he said. “Most people assume their phones can’t.”

According to NBC, Stickley said that among the most critical pieces of information a hacker could gather from one’s phone is a personal email, which can later be used to reset passwords.

“Having access to your email has become very valuable, because, if you think about it, every account you have requires access to your email,” he said. “Everybody’s login is your email, and that’s the problem.”

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is recommending people use power outlets instead of USB power stations and buying portable chargers that can be used on the go.

If you need assistance with Managed IT Services or Security Services give EnhancedTECH a call at 714-970-9330 or contact us at [email protected]

Source: NBC News

Image Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/closed-up-photography-of-two-iphones-1028674/

Samantha Keller
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