Don’t Get Hacked by a USB Charger

“What do you mean the charger hacked me?”

Now that I am doing a large amount (if not all) of my computing via mobile devices, making sure that I have enough power with me throughout the day is an absolute must.

Even though the iPhone 6S+ and the iPad Pro 9.7 are great on the battery, I still carry a small backup battery and a rapid charge adapter with me to keep myself charged throughout the day. And as a frequent traveler, I also find myself in a rental car, airplane, airport or hotel with a USB charge available — but I never felt really comfortable plugging into some random USB port just to get a quick battery recharge.

Every day, there seems to be a new article detailing a horror story about people using these plugs out of convenience and then the chargers steal your data — a practice commonly known as “juice jacking”:

Juice jacking happens when a mobile device (i.e. smart phone or tablet) is plugged into a charging station via USB — it does not occur via laptops or devices plugged into wall sockets. Any employee with a smart phone or tablet that is connected to a corporate network can open up exposure simply by plugging his or her dying device into the USB charging kiosk at an airport, business center or conference. These charging stations can be hijacked by hackers and configured to read and copy data from the device and also upload malware to facilitate later exploitation, all without the user’s knowledge that anything is amiss.

To combat that, one of the easiest and most useful tools that I always carry with me is a USB “condom” — also known as a smart data blocker. From trying out a bunch of these, I highly recommend the PortaPow Fast Charge + Data Block USB Adaptor with SmartCharge. It’s easily the best one that I’ve tried, without any charge time performance hit. Basically, the PortaPow sits in-between your normal charge cable and the USB outlet — cutting the data lines of the USB — so your device is only getting the charge and doesn’t leak your data.

It’s a simple but effective way to keep yourself and your data safe.