Your smartphone can be easily hacked easily if you plug it in to charge via USB at a public place like an airport, cafe or on public transport.
Researchers at security firm Kaspersky Labs found that they could install a third-party application, like a virus, onto the phone via its USB cable connection to a computer. It took them under three minutes.
They also found that the Android and iOS phones tested leaked a host of private data to the computer they were connected to whilst charging, including the device name, device manufacturer, device type, serial number and even a list of files.
It’s well known that public Wi-Fi connections are a security risk, but did you know that the USB cord used to charge your phone is also used to send data from your phone to other devices?
By pairing it with any charging station (airport, plane, mall), which usually has a computer hidden behind it, you run the risk of having your photos or contact info sent to that device. If the computer behind the charging station is compromised, it could inject malicious code directly into your device.
You should also avoid connecting your mobile device via USB to a rental car’s entertainment system just for charging. Use the cigarette lighter adapter instead so you don’t have to worry about your personal info being stored in a car that’s not yours.
How to protect yourself:
- Only plug your phone into trusted computers, using trusted USB cables
- Protect your cell phone with a password, or with another method such as fingerprint recognition, and don’t unlock it while charging.
- Use encrypted apps like WhatsApp and iMessage to communicate
- Antiviruse programs can be a pain, but they help to detect malware even if a “charging” vulnerability is used.
- Always update your cellphone operating system to the most recent version, as that will have the most up-to-date bug fixes.