Tuesday Tip: Stop Using Public USB Ports!

By: Richard Stokes

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I first wrote about this topic more than 5 years ago and although time has passed, this one still raises eyebrows. So, here it is……never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, plug your smartphone or any other USB connected device into a USB port that isn’t your own.

 

This includes places such as:

  • USB charging stations at the airport or on the airplane.
  • USB ports in your hotel room.
  • USB charging stations in coffee shops or any other retail setting.
  • Any public kiosk that offers USB charging.
  • Temporary USB charging stations set-up at conferences and trade shows.
  • USB chargers in the dashboard of your rental car.
  • Any USB port that isn’t yours (follow this rule and it will cover you for all the above and more).

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[spacer height=”20px”] I think you get the idea.

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Why is this a common issue for today’s users? I think the answer comes from the notion that a USB connection’s primary purpose is to recharge your device when the battery is getting low. ‘EEHHNNTTT!!’ Thanks for playing, but that’s the wrong answer!

 

What we’ve forgotten is that first and foremost, USB is a communication protocol and data is transmitted across the USB cable. Over time, we have added the ability to deliver power across the cable and this has now become the norm.

The danger is that you really have no idea if the USB port you are plugging in to has a tiny computer sitting behind it that when connected to will either load malware to your device or is reading everything off of your device (saved passwords, text messages, pictures, emails, browsing history, etc.). The IT community calls this: ‘Juice Jacking.’

How do you protect yourself from this? Easy – carry a portable battery pack with you and/or a USB power adapter so you can plug into any common power outlet. If you get into a rental car, bring a cigarette lighter USB adapter and plug in that way. Resist the urge to plug into unknown USB outlets and you’ll keep your data and privacy a little more secure than perhaps others who don’t get our newsletter.

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Richard Stokes: As the Director of Sales for Network 1, Richard identifies “future” clients that can benefit from the support of an experienced, outsourced IT team. He helps clients and prospects find technology solutions they need to achieve better productivity and efficiency so they can focus their attention on making money and growing their respective business.

Network 1 designs, builds and supports the IT you need to run your business more securely, productively and successfully. Whether you want to outsource all of your IT needs to a reliable, responsive, service-oriented company, or need to supplement the work of your internal IT staff, we will carefully evaluate where you are now, discuss where you want to go and implement and support a plan to get you there with as little interruption as possible.

2 Comments

  1. Shelly Browne on February 13, 2019 at 7:35 am

    Wow, I would not have thought of this!!
    Please address (if you haven’t already) the dangers of getting hacked in coffee shops on their wifi — now only sticking with my data in public!! 5 hours of my life lost to someone taking over my Facebook. Thanks for being part of the Kennesaw Business Association. I noticed your link was broken so I am having it fixed… sorry about that!
    Shelly

  2. Donna Grindle on February 28, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    Great article Richard! I wanted to add another way to protect yourself from these security holes. Use a USB data blocker device. Here is a link to an example of one: https://portablepowersupplies.co.uk/home/portapow-data-blocker-usb-adaptor

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