Helpful Ways to Avoid Juice Jacking

11/22/2022

Help

Have you ever needed a charge for your phone when you were out? Probably. All of us have been there. And did you just so happen to find a public charger and connect your phone to one of its USB ports?  But did you realize that you might have become a victim of a juice jacking attack if you had done that? Most likely not.

Instead of data, we frequently associate charging with electricity. However, your phone may technically transfer both data and electricity when plugged into a USB port. Additionally, if it can transfer data, it can upload malware to your device and steal your personal data.

In this article, we’ll examine what juice jacking is, how it operates, and how to prevent it.

Juice Jacking – What Is It?

A USB charging station that has been infected can be used to corrupt linked devices in a security exploit known as “juice jacking.” The vulnerability exploits the fact that a mobile device’s power supply travels over the same USB cable as the linked device’s data sync cable. At airports, shopping centers, and other public locations that offer free charging stations for mobile devices, juice jacking vulnerabilities cause a threat.

Juice jacking exploits are somewhat rare. However, the attack vector is real and frequently contrasted with older ATM card skimming exploits. Both card skimming and juice jacking depend on the end user believing the hacked gadget is secure to use.

How Juice Jacking Works

A hardware-focused Man in the Middle (MitM) assault is juice jacking. Using a USB connection, the attacker can upload malware directly to the charging station, infect a cable, and leave it plugged in, expecting an unwary user to use the “forgotten” cord. 

Because the same connector used to charge a gadget can also transfer data, juice jacking vulnerabilities are effective. Only two of the five pins on a USB connector are used to send data, and only one pin is required to charge a connected device. This architecture enables file transfers between a computer and a mobile device while the latter is plugged into a charging station.

The most frequent tools used in juice-jacking assaults are USB ports and phone charging cords. Aside from more uncommon gadgets, portable battery power banks and USB ports on video game consoles could be utilized in this kind of hack.

Types of Juice Jacking Assault

Check out the many juice jacking attacks that can occur below.

Attack using juice jacking to steal data.

This payload was briefly mentioned above. The data leakage of personal information from unaware consumers is one of the common objectives of juice jacking attacks. Usually, actual data theft is totally automated and takes place very rapidly. And given how dependent we are on our phones nowadays, this might compromise email, health records, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. Simply put, a quick charge is not worth it.

Virus or malware infection hijacking attack

Once the attacker can resume data transfer, it can go both ways. This implies that they will be able to infect your phone with malware or a virus.

Your phone will be vulnerable to all of the negative effects of malware/virus infestations once infected, including data loss, loss of functionality, erratic network connections, device slowdown, malware installation, etc.

Juice jacking attack on multiple devices

The attacker infects your device with malware in both a malware/virus infection attack and a multi-device juice jacking attack. Simply said, the virus that was downloaded onto your phone makes a difference because it is intended to infect the other USB charging ports on the charging station. As a result, the assault may be scaled up and the attacker can concurrently compromise many devices, increasing their payload.

Disabling juice jacking attack

As the name suggests, a disabling juice jacking attack disables the mobile device. The hacker will install malware into the phone after it is linked to the infected charging port, effectively making it inaccessible for the intended user while keeping complete control of the device for themselves. Following a juice jacking attack that disables functionality, the same damages as above occur, with the potential benefit of being exploited in a DDoS attack.

Where are you most vulnerable to attacks by juice jackers?

There is a chance of being a victim of a juice jacking attack anywhere there is a public USB charging station. However, airports are the location where these attacks happen most frequently. There are a few causes for this, too. 

First, attackers require many possible targets to optimize their return on investment. Airports are ideal since they are high transit places. Additionally, many people will feel that it is essential to have their mobile phone fully charged when they are in an airport, increasing the likelihood of putting their device into the charging station.

You should also consider the fact that airports are frequently tense and rushed places, which tend to encourage snap judgments like disobeying sound advice and plugging your phone into a public charging station.

Therefore, every public charging station poses a security threat.

What electronic equipment is prone to juice jacking attacks?

Attacks known as “juice jacking” mostly target mobile devices. On the other hand, this does not imply that mobile phones are more susceptible to juice jacking attacks than other gadgets. It’s just that they’re the most often used mobile device, making them the one that will require a charge while in use.

However, every USB-charged device is susceptible. That includes tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, fitness bands, and even laptops (if they support USB charging) .

How to stop juice jacking?

Avoid using public chargers.

Simply refraining from public charging stations is the first and most effective way to prevent juice jacking assaults. If your phone runs out of battery, be brave and go without a phone until you can safely charge it. Although it may seem like a lot to ask, this approach will work for you!

Utilize and enable the software security features on your device.

Technical safeguards against security concerns like juice jacking are built into mobile devices. Put as many of the following advice into practice if you have to utilize a public charging station:

  • Turn off the option on your smartphone that allows data to be transferred automatically when a charging cord is attached. For iOS devices, this is the default. Users of Android should turn off this setting in the Settings app.
  • Once you’ve plugged your device into the charger, lock it. Because of it, it won’t be able to sync or send data.
  • You’ve linked to something other than a power outlet if your device asks you to “trust this computer.” Refusing the permission will prevent data transfers to and from your device because trusting the computer will enable it. Even though the last recommendation is not foolproof, actively enabling data flows is still preferable.

Before charging your device, you can also turn it off. Many mobile phones, including the iPhone, immediately turn on when connected to power. Therefore, results may vary. This is a useful safety measure if your mobile phone does not turn on immediately when connected to power.

Utilize a USB charger or a backup battery.

  • Bring a backup charger and cord, and if necessary, locate a power outlet to recharge your smartphone.
  • Bring a USB power source with you. These are affordable and widely accessible, allowing you to recharge your smartphone more than once.
  • A spare battery should be with you. When necessary, you can replace the replaceable battery of your gadget with a fully charged one if it has one.

All of the aforementioned alternatives are preferable to a public charging station and shield you from a juice jacking attack.

Utilize a USB passthrough device.

Small devices that resemble USB flash drives are known as USB passthrough devices. The passthrough device stops any data from being transmitted over your USB cable after you have inserted it. It accomplishes this by turning off the USB cable’s data pins .

Using USB passthrough devices, often known as USB condoms, is a great defense against juice jacking attempts. They are affordable, reliable, and easily found at electronics stores.

You can use a USB charging cable that disables or does not include the data transfer pins in the USB connector, limiting its ability to do anything but charge devices. These cables offer the same security for USB passthrough devices.

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Conclusion

You now have it. Real juice jacking occurs. But if you exercise caution, you can greatly lower your risk. Furthermore, some of the solutions, such as a fast charging cable or a portable power bank, are useful for purposes apart from securing a device.

Have you ever been concerned before about the security of public charging stations? In the comments section below, please share how you stay safely charged while on the go.