Warning: Stay Away from “juice jacking” – cellphone security tips

Juice jacking is a hot term these days, especially popular in the cybersecurity circle.

Though no one seems to be really sure why it is called “juice jacking”, what is the “juice” after all, the meaning is easy to understand.

It is only my personal guess that the word “juice” here refers to the
electric current that travels through the wire or cable once it’s
connected to the port, as is one of the many meanings of the word.

What is Juice Jacking?

– Juice jacking is a type of cyber attack involving a charging port that doubles as a data connection, typically over USB. This often involves either installing malware or surreptitiously copying sensitive data from a smart phone, tablet, or other computer device. (Wikipedia)

– Juice jacking is a security exploit in which an infected USB charging station is used to compromise connected devices. The exploit takes advantage of the fact that a mobile device’s power supply passes over the same USB cable the connected device uses to sync data. (searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition)

It happens mostly in public areas such as airport, hotel lobby/rooms, shopping malls, cafeteria etc., where free charging ports are available, normally a USB port on the wall.

What happens if you plug in your cellphone into a USB port to charge your phone battery?

– Data stored in the phone can be transferred to a cybercriminal’s device, if the port has been compromised.

– Malware can be installed on your phone.

The logic behind it is a USB port is not designed to be an electric socket, at least not the main function, but an interface to transfer data between two devices.

It is no wonder the ruse is translated in Chinese “charging trap”(充电陷阱)which is more explicit than the original quip.

How to stay away from “juice jacking”?

Easy steps include:

  • Do NOT use public charging stations (USB charging port or USB charging cable)
  • Do NOT charge your phone on a stranger’s laptop using a USB cable
  • If you must charge your phone in public areas, use a wall outlet (traditional socket) instead
  • Power off your cellphone if you must use a public USB port to charge
  • Always bring your own power bank