'Never charge your phone at the airport' – cyber security expert explains why

A cyber security expert is warning travelers about the hidden dangers of charging their phones at the airport.

After hours of aimlessly scrolling, checking directions, and connecting with friends and family while commuting, many find their phone battery dead. So they head to convenient charging stations with USB ports found in airport terminals.

However, while it is convenient and these stations seem like the best solution, many travelers are in for a surprise as hackers have found ways to load viruses.

Jay Rowe of plug adapter manufacturer Signal + Power explains three reasons why you shouldn't charge your phone at the airport.

1. Risk of Malware

According to Jay, it's the number one reason to never charge your phone at the airport “Convenience comes with great security risk”.

“These ports can be compromised to install malware on your device. This malware can sneak in undetected and silently steal sensitive information such as passwords and bank details.” explained.

In 2023, the United States Intelligence and Security Agency released a message via its official Denver Twitter account: “Avoid using free charging stations at airports, hotels or shopping malls. Criminals have found ways to use public USB ports to inject malware and surveillance software into devices.”

2. Juice jacking

Then the expert warned of a technique called “juice jacking.” Therein lies the case Malware can be installed through a corrupted USB portLocking the device or exporting your personal data and password directly to the criminal.

In the case of smartphones, this works because power and data flow through the same cable. “Once infected, your phone will be infected anywhere you take it with you, not just at the airport” Jay pointed out.

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3. Data reporting

Finally, charging your mobile device at the airport can lead to inadvertent data exposure. Even if the charging station isn't hacked, you could still be at risk.

“Charging stations can transfer both data and energy. While phones prompt users to choose between “charge only” and “file transfer” modes, this protection is often omitted at charging stations. As a result, your device may be vulnerable to data eavesdropping or exploitation. This stolen data can then be used for identity theft or sold on the dark web. The expert revealed.

Tips to stay safe

In addition to offering a warning, Jay also shares some tips on how to safely charge your phone at the airport if you find yourself in a situation where you need it.

The The first tip is to invest in a portable charger so you don't have to rely on public charging stations.

Second, stick to reliable sources and only use your own charger or borrow one from someone you trust. – Wall sockets are better than USB ports.

“If you must use a public station, turn off data transmission on your mobile before connecting. This guarantees that only current flows through the cable. Also consider “data blocking” cables. Data-blocking USB prevents data transfer between your device and the charging station, allowing only power transfer” J explained.

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