Thursday, August 18, 2011

Watch out! Charging stations could be stealing your data

By Rosa Golijan

Hearing your phone chirp desperately in order to alert you that it's running out of battery power is heartbreaking when you're stuck in an airport, hotel, or shopping center with no power outlets in sight. But wait! There's a free charging station right around the corner. There's no harm in using that to refresh your battery, right?


As the folks at Krebs on Security report, those innocent-seeming charging stations could easily turn from saviors to devious data thieves. Those charging stations could easily be configured to copy data from your smartphone — or to even install malware on the device.

To prove this point, Brian Markus, president of Aires Security, and security researchers Joseph Mlodzianowski and Robert Rowley set up a little social experiment at DEF CON, a massive hacker conference held each year in Las Vegas:


That's scary, but it's not a reason to panic. After all, there are steps you can take to protect your own devices and data:

Bring a regular charger cable when you travel and use that to plug into plain old electrical outlets instead of trusting cables dangling from charging stations.

Invest in some spare battery packs to recharge your devices on the go.

If you absolutely have no choice other than to rely on a charging station, then at least power down your mobile device entirely before plugging it in. This may keep you protected.


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