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Why You Should Never Use USB Charging Stations At The Airport

It all boils down to two things – privacy and security.

Traveling is one of the most exciting activities people long for after a stressful work season. You’ve got everything planned, including what to bring – sunscreen, swimsuit, camera, and some gadgets. But you realize you forgot something very important, your power bank!

One of the most annoying things that happen to tourists is their cell phone’s battery running low, especially if you need to stay at the airport for hours waiting for your flight. Though there are charging stations at airports nowadays, an expert warns against using USB charging ports.

It all boils down to two things – privacy and security. Apparently, cybercriminals can modify those USB connections to install malware on your phone or download your private data without your knowledge.

Caleb Barlow, Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security said:

” 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. And remember that that USB port can pass data.”

So what do you need to do when you run out of battery at the airport?

You can bring your regular charger and plug it into a wall outlet or bring your hand power bank to recharge the phone.

When all else fails and you need to connect to a USB charging port, Barlow suggests investing just $10 on a program dubbed as “Juice-Jack Defender”, which you can put in front of your charging cord and it blocks any data from passing through it.

Lastly, he advises to never use a cord or any gadget other travelers leave behind. If you see a cord dangling from a USB port, ignore it.

Barlow added:

“Let’s say I’m a bad guy … I go into an airport … I’m not going to easily take apart the charging station, but it’s easy just to leave my cord behind,”

“Now, if you see an Apple charging cord, you’re likely to grab it or just plug into it. But inside this cord is an extra chip that deploys the malware, so it charges your phone, but now I own your computer.”

These precautions may be too excessive for travelers, especially if they really need to charge their phones. But, Barlow reiterates that avoiding USB charging stations at airports and other transportation hubs can dramatically reduce the risk of getting hacked or having your files leak to other people.

In fact, there is a growing number of hackers eyeing travelers, according to new research from IBM Security. Titled, “2019 IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index“, the study revealed that the transportation industry has been a major target of cybercriminals. About 586 million records from the travel and transportation industry have been compromised since January 2018.

It’s better to be safe than sorry, avoid charging ports and be vigilant at airports.

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