Seductive, but just say no to public charging stations and WiFi

Experts say that your devices should not be open to cyber attacks by hackers who want to steal your information.

5 tips for safety while traveling
Gone are the days when we have to fight for connectivity while on the road or even in the air. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

We have all been there. The battery percentage on your mobile is in red and you have forgotten your charger. And you expect an important phone call. Fortunately, you remember that there is a public charging station in the department store with a discount in the local shopping center.

Or …

Your mobile service is poor in the area where you are located and you only need WiFi. You comb your memory bank and try to remember restaurants and stores that offer free WiFi. At least that is there.

Phew. Thank goodness, right?

Not really.

We spoke to experts who weighed the risks that you take when you connect to a public charging station or connect back to the strongest available WiFi. This is what you should
and shouldn’t do that

Tap on that public (cost) source

are used extensively at airports and in shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, lobbies, communal work areas, coffee shops, schools and rental cars, “said Craig Smith, expert on cyber security and intellectual property.

Kurtis Minder, CEO and co-founder of security company GroupSense, noted that there are public charging stations at logistics sites such as FedEx, as well as “semi-public charging stations in office lobbies and meeting rooms.”

Liz Hamilton from the mobile repair company Mobile Klinik added
charging stations
are also at libraries, train stations and “any public space that is a hotspot for tourists.”

Don’t forget “convention centers and event locations”, said Kate Sullivan, head of experience at the Otis Travel Group. Places like ‘the Javits Center in NYC’ or the many event halls in Las Vegas. “Buses and subways add charging stations,” in Europe and the UK and on the MegaBus and Greyhound.

It is a business

Why do so many locations offer customers the option to charge their phones?

“Many store owners offer public charging stations for the convenience of customers,” explains Smith. “With charging stations, customers can spend more time and probably more money in the store.”

Why charging stations are a risk

Do not use public charging stations because you are putting your device at risk for a cyber attack.

Getty Images / iStockphoto

“The problem with malicious USB charging stations,” Smith said, was recently emphasized by the public prosecutor in Los Angeles, who warned travelers to avoid public charging stations.

“Most people assume that a public USB drive is only used to power a mobile device,” Smith said. “However, a malicious USB charging station can use a device that can read data from a user’s phone or a mobile device. In addition to stealing data, a USB charging station can also transfer malicious software to the charging device.”

Ted Wagner, vice president and CISO, enterprise security at SAP National Security Services, noted that hackers are targeting public charging hubs with viruses that infect the connected device, giving them access to the content.

SEE: Business pro’s guide for trouble-free travel (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“Giving hackers tangible access makes it all the more feasible for them to collect your data,” Wagner added. “Cyber ​​criminals can then easily delete the desired data and even make your device unusable.”

ExpressVPN Vice President Harold Li said: “Public USB charging stations often have hardware installed on the other side, which in addition to a power supply also provides a data connection through the same USB port that you use for charging. See it as connecting your phone to a computer that you do not trust. ”

The solution

Smith suggested avoiding public charging stations and using your own AC adapter with a USB cable.

This approach ensures that the mobile device receives electricity but does not transfer data. Use only USB power cables that are designed to provide power, but that do not have the necessary wiring to transfer data.

Some mobile phone manufacturers, “offer warning messages or pop-ups to warn a user that a USB connection wants to transfer data in addition to power,” he added

“Carry your own charger and plug it into a power outlet instead of a USB power outlet,” Li said. There is “a cable that carries the electricity, but no data and devices called” USB condoms “that block any data transfer and only allow power to pass through.”

A private eye and former Secret Service agent, Darrin Giglio, do not take words into account: “Do not use public charging stations. If you absolutely must use one, turn off your phone completely. The phone is being charged and your data is safe.”

Tap on that public (WiFi) source

“Publicly available Wi-Fi (can be) free, convenient and helps external employees to focus by providing them with a relaxing environment to work in,” said Will Ellis, an IT security consultant and founder of Privacy Australia. “The main disadvantage of using public WiFi is a lack of security. If you connect your devices to a public source, you run the risk of cyber attack.”

“Beware of public WiFi,” said Caleb Barlow, a security expert and former IBM director and current CEO of CynergisTek, “especially if you travel outside the country.”

“Wait with banking or other transactions until you use a Wi-Fi connection that you trust or are back at home,” Barlow said. “Non-encrypted Wi-Fi connections always have the potential for a ‘man-in-the-middle’ to monitor the connection.”

Wagner said, “Unfortunately, public WiFi has become a way for cyber criminals to steal information, including credit card information, passwords, and other personal information. This attack vector is known as” Juice Jacking. “

“The same features that make free Wi-Fi hotspots desirable for consumers make them desirable for hackers,” Li said, “it requires no authentication to establish a network connection.”

“Hackers can get unobstructed access to unprotected devices on the same network,” Li added. “The biggest threat to free Wi-Fi security is the man-in-the-middle attack. The hacker has access to all non-encrypted information that you send or receive over the Wi-Fi network, possibly including e-mails, credit card information, login details and more. “

“Whatever you do,” warned Hamilton, “remember, there is no privacy on public WiFi.”

The solution

“Disable automatic connection so that you do not automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks that you pass during the day,” Barlow said.

“Instead of using
public wifi
networks, if you work outside the city, “said Hamilton,” check in advance if your office offers a VPN service that uses encryption to create a secure network. If it is not work related, turn off your sharing and WiFi settings and use your data plan. “

You can also invest in your own VPN.

Hamilton added: “Most telephone subscriptions offer unlimited data or ad hoc purchases of large data blocks. (Do not use) all at once, but plan ahead and purchase additional data when you need it, because at the end of the day when your personal data may be compromised, that is not the time to save on your data costs. “

Sullivan of the Otis Travel Group recalled that “any password you send over a public network can be hijacked, so even checking your email if you need to log in, instead of already being logged in, can be a bit dangerous to be.”

In summary: beware

“Ultimately,” said Minder, I do not trust any of these media (public charging stations / public WiFi).

“The best policy is not to trust anything. If you need to use public WiFi, endpoint protection, a firewall, and a VPN. If you need to use public chargers, use a USB condom.”

For more information, see Top 5: ways to keep your data safe while traveling on TechRepublic.

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