Tech experts have always warned people about using different charging cables for their phone. The problems that can arise range from incompatibility issues to serious security loopholes. Recently, a new clever hack has been discovered that doesn’t seem like a hack at all!
If you’re constantly travelling and tend to lead a life on the road, you might find yourself plugging your phone in a public USB charger. It happens, and we’ve all done it once or twice. But using a cable you’re not sure of its source is not a wise thing to do.
Cybersecurity experts have claimed that charging cables can be modified to incorporate a malware. Such types of malware will let the attacker gain access to your device and spy on your personal information.
Copying Personal Information through Public USB Cables:
Using your own charging cable is like keeping proper “tech hygiene.” You know where it comes from, and you know exactly what it’s being used for. However, when you borrow someone else’s cable, it might impose incompatibility issues… let alone compromise your security.
One of the ways hackers can get access to your phone is modify the cable to allow permission to a third-party device while charging. So, let’s say you’re at an airport charging your phone. You leave it there for ten minutes or so. In that period of time, the attacker can copy most of the device’s data to their own and keep it for personal gain.
Another way is that an infected file would be transferred to your device while recharging. The cybercriminal can then have access to your location, activity, personal information and credentials at all times.
Would My Smartphone Detect the Attack?
In most cases, since the hack is not easily integrated, your phone will prompt a notification asking you to allow permission to another device. Usually, this happens because most modern smartphones come equipped with proper security measures.
However, if you’re phone is a bit outdated, or you happened to run into a rather advanced hacker, they’ll gain access to your device without you even knowing it. It’s always advised to install a trusted security app to enhance the protection of your information.
A New Twist to an Old Hack!
Since the method can be detected by most devices, hackers have found a new way to access your phone without even hacking it! Most smartphones have the option to be plugged on a monitor or a third-party display. The twist cybercriminals use is that they offer HDMI-to-USB cables for charging phones in public.
When you look at one of those, you would never tell a difference. Even once plugged, your phone will start recharging just like a normal cable, and no permission requests will be prompted.
All of your activity during the time of recharging through that cable will be displayed on another’s screen. So, let’s say you unlock your phone and make a quick purchase on the go. Your information will be displayed to another, making it accessible for them to use it however they like.
But Why Would I Use My Phone While Charging in Public?
That’s a valid question. When the method was tested by tech security experts, most users didn’t really bother to use their phones while charging in a public arena. However, as we mentioned above, you don’t know when the cable will be just modified or infected with a malware. It’s better not to take your chances when your personal credentials are at stake.
What Can You Do to Prevent This from Happening?
First of all, pack a charger on the go? It’s highly advisable to use your own charger and cable whenever you’re travelling. Third-party parts can damage your phone drastically, and you won’t be eligible for a warranty.
However, if you’re in dire need to recharge your phone, try to inspect the recharging cable before using. If it looks suspicious in any way, try to refuse politely and use another’s. Don’t be rather coy in such situations. Social hacking is something that exists, and cybercriminals enjoy it more than anything.
Should I Worry Much About This Hack?
Experts say that this particular hack is not widely used yet. It’s not easy to implement and apply, and the situations through which a hacker can gain access are a few. However, if you tend to travel frequently, you should be wary about this.
Since not a lot of people are privy to this method, it can become a security issue after a while. It’s better to be safe than sorry. So, pack your own and forget all about it.
Even iPhones & iOS Devices Are Not Protected:
It’s known that Apple have a strict operating system to enforce proper security measures over their devices. However, in some instances, iPhones were not alerted with a request to allow permission for data transfer. Also, iOS devices do not come with an option to alert users for displaying video signals over another device.
If a hacker gains access to a public arena where USB cables are available for recharging, this could become a problem. With the number of people passing by on daily basis, it’s highly probable that some users will display personal information while recharging.
There’s really not a lot to worry about here for the time-being. Experts are just alerting people of what might become an issue in the future.
That’s it for now, everyone. Hackers will always find new ways to compromise personal information. Luckily, cybersecurity experts are always on the lookout. Make sure to use official parts when recharging your phone to avoid any security issues.
Do you usually use public USB recharging ports or borrow cables? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear your input on this.