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Avoid public charging stations

29 Apr 2023

By Hilal al Barwani

Imagine you’re at Mall of Oman. You’ve just watched the highly awaited threequel of Creed, and you’re looking for a place to dine to end your night. However, when you open your phone, you see nine missed calls from your mother. She seems worried or angry! You suddenly start panicking because you realise that you only have two per cent charge left in your smartphone. After some time, you find a charger plugged into one of the charging ports, and lucky for you, it’s a charger compatible with your phone! 

You decide to plug it in and wait some time for it to get some power so you can call your mother. After some time, you plug it out, and you’re looking for the phone app in a hurry and dialing your mother’s number. However, your phone starts getting inappropriate pop-up ads, and it heats up quickly and becomes overloaded with background applications slowing it down. This is an example of a juice jacking attack.

Juice jacking is a type of cyber attack in which a hacker infects and steals information from a device by taking advantage of a public charging station. What they do is replace the original charging cable installed by the public place with a malicious cable that looks like any ordinary cable with data transfer functionality to instal a bunch of malicious software directly into the user’s device without the knowledge of the user. 

Being a victim of a juice jacking attack has numerous dangerous consequences. For example, the hacker could steal personal information like contacts, emails, messages and even passwords! The hacker could also instal certain malicious software in your device to slow it down or to simply spy on everything you’re doing. Another major consequence is that the hacker could cause your device to be ‘bricked’, meaning that it would be completely locked or unusable, which causes all your important data like photos and messages to be locked away if not backed up.

You’ve seen how easy it is for an attacker to access your information and hack you through a juice jacking attack. However, it is easy to avoid being a victim of such attacks. Firstly, and most obviously, avoid using public charging stations so you won’t be a victim of a juice jacking attack. However let’s say you are in a situation where you really need to charge your device in a public place. In that case, use your backup charging adapter and cable which you must have with you at all times. 

Or better still,  purchase a power bank! And let’s say you forgot your own charger and need to power up using a public wire, in which case you should power off your device while charging, because even if the wire is malicious, it will prevent installation of any type of malware when your phone is powered off. It would simply charge your device with no data transfer.

In conclusion, juice jacking attacks are on the rise. So I decided to write on it. You can defend yourself from cyber attacks. See you in two weeks with another interesting topic!

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