Charging smartphone: FBI recommends USB condom for public charging terminals

Charging your smartphone or tablet involves data risks. The FBI recommends wearing a USB condom–at least in public. It mentions other measures against juice jacking.

Smartphone aufladen: FBI empfiehlt USB-Kondom für öffentliche Ladeterminals

A USB Contrary to this collage, the condom is not a plastic cover, but a dongle that only lets charging current through. (Illustration: Zsolt Biczo/

In a

press release, the US regulator FCC recommends when using public USB Loading terminals — for example at airports or in hotel lobbies — to use a so-called USB condom. Called USB adapters that block the pins, are used for data transfer and therefore only allow the pure charging current to flow to your own device. But there are other preventive measures against cyber theft via juice jacking. The FBI has now forwarded the recommendations.
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Smartphone aufladen: FBI empfiehlt USB-Kondom für öffentliche Ladeterminals

Juice-Jacking: This is how thieves pull your data from your cell phoneSmartphone aufladen: FBI empfiehlt USB-Kondom für öffentliche Ladeterminals With this method, cyber criminals have exactly this target group in mind: unsuspecting Smartphone– and Tablet owners who just want to charge their device. Malicious people can either install malware on the public USB charging stations and gain access to the system.

Alternatively, you can also interpose a USB adapter that performs the appropriate actions. There are reports that primed charging cables have been given out as giveaways. The result is always the same: data, logins and passwords fall into the hands of criminals.

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USB data blockers cost as much as a coffee

The FCC names a number of measures to prevent juice jacking. First — as mentioned — the use of a USB condom helps. The devices are similar to small USB sticks, with the difference that they in turn carry a USB connection. They block the channels through which data is normally sent and only let the pure charging current through. The price of the USB data blocker varies between 3 and 26 euros.

How to prevent data theft when loading from your smartphone
Alternatively, you can avoid using USB charging stations altogether and look for an AC outlet instead. You should always have a power pack and charging cable with you. This also corresponds to the second recommendation of the US authorities: With your own loading equipment you are on the safe side.

Having your own power bank also helps to avoid having to rely on public charging stations. Last but not least, when prompted to “release data or just charge?”, you should always choose the latter option.

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