Culture

Watch Out for a Sinister New Cyber Hack

You are racing through the airport. The low power light is blinking red. You are desperate to plug into any outlet you can find.

Watch out.

You could get juice jacked.

Guess what? In every smart phone—no matter what the model—power and data flow through the same USB port and power cable. That creates a potential attack vector for a malicious actor to break into your device. A virus could be injected right into the phone. That’s a problem. There are some nasty bugs out there.

Another possibility is that a hacker could use the power cord like a vacuum cleaner and suck all kinds of data off your phone. Hackers can do an awful lot with the information they steal including identity theft. The FBI described a stolen identity as “a powerful cloak of anonymity for criminals and terrorists…and a danger to national security and private citizens alike.”

There are already lots of ways to break into your phone—the most common is when users log on to an unsecured wifi site.

Sneaking in through the power cable—called “juice jacking”–is now another concern.

At the 2011 DEF CON security conference, researchers from Aries Security showed how this scam might work. They built a charging kiosk and installed it on the conference floor.  Security “professionals” plugged in all day long. When they did, they got flashed a message—“You should not trust public kiosks with your smart phone. Information can be retrieved or downloaded without your consent.”

For now, the danger seems mostly just a possibility. Seems like hackers are finding plenty of other ways to wreak havoc on smart phone users.

Still, better to be safe than sorry.

There are some common sense practices for avoiding juice jacking.  There is also a suggested tech protection—a USB condom.