What is Juice Jacking?
Juice jacking involves cybercriminals installing malware and/or stealing data from devices while they are plugged into public charging stations, the kind often seen in airports, shopping centers, hotels lobbies, and sometimes restaurants. Even plugging a phone in for a minute can allow enough time for personal information to be stolen or malware to be installed. Those who experience juice jacking could end up with a disabled phone, stolen identity, financial ransacking or even threats to post sensitive material.
Juice jacking is not new, but the issue recently gained more attention when the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office made an announcement warning people to avoid charging stations. They noted that travelers are especially vulnerable because they are the most likely to desperately need a charge and tend to frequent locations that provide charging stations. Luckily, there are a few ways to avoid being juice jacked and some signs for when it might’ve already happened to you.
How to Avoid Juice Jacking
The simplest way to avoid it is by simply not using USB power charging stations. A better option is to plug your own USB into an AC power outlet. Even better is charging from your own portable battery.
However, if the charging station cannot be avoided, you can use a data-blocker device, which allows for power to go to your phone, but will not allow data to travel in the other direction. Popular brands include SyncStop or Juice-Jack Defender. A power-only USB cable would do the same thing.
What to Look For if You Might’ve Been Juice Jacked
There usually won’t be any immediate sign that your device has been hacked, but there are a few common indicators to look for after even a few hours. If malware has been installed, it will be acting in the background so you might notice (1) a sudden change in data usage or battery consumption. Also, because this software is acting without your knowledge, you might notice (2) the phone is much hotter than usual or is (3) taking a long time to complete simple tasks. Also (4) seeing any new apps or changes to settings that you didn’t download or make yourself, should raise a serious concern. In that case, you should immediately delete the app and restore factory settings.