What is Juice Jacking?
We all use different devices during the day, but they converge to a common point when the battery runs out, the cables and adaptors we use to charge the devices are daily necessities for everyone. These cables and adaptors have access to the only port in the phones and hence are used for juice-jacking attacks. Juice jacking is when someone installs malware or spyware software in your device using an unknown charging port or cable.
How does juice jacking work?
We all use phones and gadgets, like I-phones, smartphones, Android devices: and smartwatches, to simplify our lives. But one thing common in it is the charging cables or USB ports, as the data and power supply pass through the same port/cable.
This is potentially a problem with devastating consequences. When your phone connects to another device, it pairs with it (ports/cables) and establishes a trusted relationship. That means the devices can exchange data. During the charging process, the USB cord opens a path into your device that a cybercriminal can exploit.
There is a default setting in the phones where data transfer is disabled, and the connections which provide the power are visible at the end. For example, in the latest models, when you plug your device into a new port or a computer, a question is pooped asking whether the device is trusted. The device owner cannot see what the USB port connects to in case of juice jacking. So, if you plug in your phone and someone checks on the other end, they may be able to transfer data between your device and theirs, thus leading to a data breach.
A leading airline was recently hacked into, which caused delayed flights across the country. When investigated, it was found that malware was planted in the system by using a USB port, which allowed the hackers access to critical data to launch their malware attack.
Federal Bureau of Investigation and other Interpol agencies have been very critical of cybercriminals. Inter-agency cooperation has improved the pace of investigation and chances of apprehending criminals. In a tweet by the FBI, the issue of Juice Jakcking was addressed, and public places like airports, railways stations, shopping malls etc., are pinpointed places where such attacks have been seen and reported. These places offer easy access to charging points for various devices, which are the main targets for bad actors. The FBI advises people not to use the charging points and cables at airports, railways stations and hotels and also lays emphasis upon the importance of carrying your own cable and charger.
Tips to protect yourself from juice jacking
There are a few simple and effective tips to keep your smart devices smart, such as –
- Avoid using public charging stations: The best way to protect yourself and your devices is to avoid public charging stations it’s always a good habit to charge your phones in your car, at home, and in offices when not in use.
- Using a wall outlet is a safer option: If it’s too urgent for you to use a public station, try to use wall outlets rather than poles because data can’t get easily transferred.
- Use other methods/modes of charging: If you are travelling, carrying a power bank is always safe, as it is easy to carry.
- Software security: – It’s always advised to update your phone’s software regularly. Once connected to the charging station, lock your device. This will prevent it from syncing or transferring data.
- Enable Airplane mode while charging: If you need to charge your phone from an unknown source in a public area, it is advisable to put the phone on airplane mode or switch it off to prevent anyone from gaining access to your device through any open network.
However, many mobile phones (including iPhones) turn on automatically when connected to power. As a result, your mileage may vary. This is an effective safeguard if your phone does not turn on automatically when connected to power.
As of present, juice-jacking attacks are less frequent. While not the most common type of attack today, the number of occurrences is expected to rise as smartphone gadget usage and penetration are rising across the globe. Our cyber safety and security are in our hands, and hence protecting them is our paramount digital duty. Always remember we see no harm in charging ports, but that doesn’t mean that the possibility of a threat can be ruled out completely. With the increased use of ports for charging, earphones, and data transfer, such crimes will continue and evolve with time. Thus, it is essential to counter these attacks by sharing knowledge and awareness of such crimes and reporting them to competent authorities to eradicate the menace of cybercriminals from our digital ecosystem.
Author : Mr. Abhishek Singh, Lead – Policy and Advocacy, CyberPeace