Why charging a phone at the airport is a risky business

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Cybercriminals are mastering a new way of fraud.

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IBM Security experts have discovered a new way to steal data from mobile devices. At risk — travelers using public USB ports for charging; most often such stations can be found at airports. As it turned out, hackers can easily modify these ports so that when the cable is connected to it, malware is downloaded to the device. It can steal the personal data of the owner — including bank information.

According to experts in the field of security, in 2019 the transport industry has become one of the top priorities for cybercriminals: it immediately follows financial institutions. Meanwhile, in 2017 it was given only tenth place.

“Traveling has always been when people are more vulnerable. A few hundred years ago, the perpetrators were pirates or highwaymen. Now those criminals are still out there, but they’ve changed their methods to focus on digital attacks instead,”

Caleb Barlow
Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security

Experts have discovered an even easier way of fraud: in some cases, hackers do not even dismantle the entire charging station, but simply insert their own cable into it. A person sees a cable suitable for his device and puts it on a charge. Meanwhile, in the ‘hacker’ cable is mounted chip, bringing malware to the phone.

It is very simple to avoid this danger: it is enough to carry your charges with you by plugging them into ordinary sockets. True, they are not often found at airports, so the situation will save the portable battery. And if you want to use public charging stations, you should ensure yourself by purchasing a special protective ‘key’-adapter between the cord and the station: it only passes voltage, blocking data transfer.

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