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What You Need to Know About USB Hacking in Airports and Public Spaces

You may have recently heard security experts warning against the use of public USB ports over the fear of ‘Juice-Jacking’. Juice-Jacking is when hackers secretly tamper with USB ports, enabling them to upload malware to your phone and steal your information. While such occurrences are rare, it is important to understand more about the problem and how to protect against it.

Modules with USB ports that are susceptible to hacking exhibit several design flaws. These include:

  • USB ports are extended by cables to a printed circuit board (PCB)

  • Data pins, which transfer information between devices, are connected to a wireless programmable integrated circuit (IC).

An additional concern are tampered charging cables left behind by hackers. They could be loaded with data that is potentially harmful to your device.

Arconas’ secure charging solutions:

Arconas sells individual power modules, as well as furniture with built-in charging ports. Each are designed to be tamper resistant to protect against any malicious intent. These safety features are as follows:

  • Charging ports are soldered directly to the printed circuit board, making it much more difficult to remove or tamper with.

  • Data pins are connected to unprogrammable integrated circuits. Arconas’ integrated circuits are used to regulate charging modes only, not transfer data.
  • Users can charge their mobile devices without the need to connect to a wireless access point (e.g. Wi-Fi service).
  • We offer tamper-proof labels for our charging units.

Protecting your facility and the public:

  • Look out for any random cables that have been left at a charging port and get rid of them – they have the potential to be tampered with.
  • Install power units that have the USB ports soldered to the printed circuit board.
  • Add tamper-proof labels to your charging units. If you already have modules with these labels, have maintenance staff check regularly for any tampering.

In addition to protecting your facility, you can also advise the public on the following best practices for charging:

  • Only use your own cable. Unattended cables in public areas could be an act of phishing.
  • Only purchase and use certified cables. Unmarked cables may contain malware that will be automatically installed to mobile devices as soon as devices are connected.
  • If available, consider charging a battery pack rather than charging your phone. Arconas’ charging stations can charge your battery pack to the maximum charging speed.
  • If your mobile device needs to be charged, consider turning off the device. This method may not work on some devices.
  • When plugged into a USB port, some devices will ask whether you want to exchange data, or simply charge your phone. Always choose the ‘charge only’ option.

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