What is Juice Jacking?
Juice refers to the charge of your mobile devices like smartphones, Tablet or Laptop and Jacking means to take something without permission or to steal. However, Juice Jacking is not stealing the charge of your mobile device. As a matter of fact, it is more dangerous.
Juice Jacking refers to a cyber attack on your mobile device where either a malicious software is installed on it, or sensitive data is copied from it while the device is being charged.
Juice Jacking generally occurs when you try to charge your device in public kiosks at the airport or the train station. This type of attack involves cybercriminals trying to trick the device and convert the simple USB charging cable to a data-sharing cable. Once a connection is established between your phone and the hacker, malware would be loaded on to the device which would either lock it or transfer data and passwords directly to the hacker’s computer. Juice Jacking has been in the news since the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office posted an article on their website, declaring it to be a serious threat. Click here to read the Official Post.
What Steps Can I Take To Prevent Juice Jacking?
There is an ongoing debate on whether Juice Jacking is possible or not, and how serious it can be. While the debate persists, here are a few ways you should follow, not just because they would help you prevent Juice Jacking but because these are a few precautions that would safeguard your mobile and personal information anywhere, anytime.
- Avoid charging your phone with a USB outlet in Public Places
- Use a USB Power-Only Cable
- Use a USB Data Blocker Dongle
- Use an A/C charger outlet
- Carry a Power bank
- Avoid charging your phone with a USB outlet in Public Places.
Any USB charging socket with or without a cable poses a threat of Juice Jacking as your data, and personal information can be stolen while your phone is being charged. It is not recommended to charge your phone via USB from anywhere except your own personal sources. Data via USB can be stolen on Airports, Stations, Hotels, Cafés and even at homes.
- Use a USB Power-Only Cable.
If you use a lot of your mobile phone, then you would need to charge it frequently. To safeguard your phone from Juice Jacking, carry a USB cable that only facilitates power transfer. All USB cables contain four pins, two of them transfer power and the remaining two transfer data. A USB Power-cable is limited to charge your phone only and will not act as a data cable, and this eliminates the risk of any data transfer from your phone.
- Use a USB Data Blocker Dongle.
With all those innovating brains around, there is a device that is placed between the USB charging port and the USB cable which disables the data transferring capability of a normal USB Cable and limits it into a power transfer cable only. You can purchase this connector from Amazon and keep it with you to avoid the risk of Juice Jacking.
Note: The Price of USB Power only cable and the USB Data Blocker Dongle device is almost the same. However, the USB data limiter can be used on your existing cable any other cable you may wish to use. It is very small in size and easier to carry around. The USB Power-only cable will only be useful while traveling and charging your phone from any other source, provided you have remembered to carry it along with you.
- Use an A/C charger outlet.
A charger that can be directly plugged into an A/C outlet eliminates the risk of Juice Jacking. Although it is not always easy to find an empty A/C socket at public places, it is recommended that you always carry an A/C adapter with a USB cable.
- Carry a Power bank.
Power Banks are small, compact, easy to carry gadgets that can store large quantities of power. These devices have a huge capacity to store power and once fully charged, they can be used to charge your mobile and other devices like Tablets, Smartwatches, Air Pods, etc. There is no risk of Juice Jacking when you charge from your own power bank, and the cost of a power bank depends on its capacity to hold power.
Other Precautionary Measures to Avoid Juice Jacking
There are a few other measures that you should be kept in mind to avoid Juice Jacking:
Keep your mobile battery full while traveling. Make it a point to charge your phone an hour before you leave your home or office. This way, you won’t have to use public chargers to charge your phone.
Never use anyone’s laptop to charge your mobile. Your data can be easily copied without you knowing it.
Check USB Preferences on your phone. The USB preferences on your mobile provide many options like Charging only, Data Transfer and Transfer Photos and Videos only. Be sure to choose Charging only among the other options.
Trust this computer. Apple devices have been displaying “Trust this Computer” dialog whenever the device is connected to a new device. Android phones have also initiated this security measure. If the user taps on “Don’t Trust” then there will be no data sharing between the devices. Remember you would receive this prompt only if you connect your phone to another device and will receive no prompt if the phone is connected to a charging station or A/C power outlet.
Using a Public Charger. If your phone is dying and you have no other option, then there are a few steps that you can take before connecting your phone to a public charger. You must:
- Turn off the Wi-Fi or mobile network.
- Turn off the Location, NFC and Bluetooth.
- Turn off your Phone
- If you can’t turn it off, then keep it locked while it is charging.
- If you want to check the percentage of charge or anything else then disconnect the charging cable first, and then unlock it and check. Before connecting your phone back to the charger, lock it again.
Note: However, there is no guarantee that the above-mentioned steps will ensure that your phone will be safe from juice jacking. It is the best precautionary measure known. Also, remember it takes less than a second for your phone to pair with any other device if unlocked while connected to the charger.
Horrors Of Juice Jacking And How Harmful Can It Be
Juice Jacking is possible because the commonly used USB cable used for charging can also be used for data transfer. Cyber Criminals can manipulate the charging cables installed to benefit people, to transfer your personal data to a device nearby. This information can be used to steal from your account or even can be used for identity theft.
In more severe cases, malware is injected into your phone, which means that a hacker can connect with your phone whenever it is connected to the internet. Once connected your phone is like an open book and anyone with access can steal your personal information like photos, contacts, address book, SMS and almost everything else.
Beware of Juice Jacking
As described above, Juice Jacking has converted the blessings of a free charging station at the airport or shopping malls into a curse. The best defense to any mishap is to remain cautious and know all you can about your phone options and prompts. From all the methods to prevent Juice Jacking, I personally prefer carrying a charged power bank with me. This way, I don’t have to borrow a charger or wait in line to use these public chargers that may not be safe to use.