Wheaton College Color Logo

New and Changing: Updates from AIT

Posted April 26, 2018 by Academic and Institutional Technology
Tags: Security

Danger! Charging Your Phone in Public USB Ports

Every day we rely on our smartphones, tablets, and laptops. There’s nothing worse than sitting in the airport waiting to board your flight and having your battery go dead.

Many airports, airplanes, or coffee shops have public USB ports you can use to charge your electronics, and it’s tempting to plug into these when you’re in a pinch. You just need to charge your battery – what’s the worst that can happen?

By themselves, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of these ports, but they can be modified by people who don’t have your best interest in mind. There is a real possibility of an invisible hacker collecting your information while your phone is innocently charging in a hacked outlet.

The cord you use to charge your phone is also used to send data from your phone to other devices. For example, when you plug your iPhone into your Mac with the charging cord, you can download photos from your phone to your computer and sync your phone’s data with iTunes.

If a public USB port has been compromised, there’s no limit to what information a hacker could take, including your emails, photos, and contacts.

You shouldn't use public USB ports, but use one of these other options:

  • Use a pronged plug instead of just the USB cord
  • Invest in a portable USB battery pack
  • Buy USB cords that don't have wires to transmit data, which prevents someone from hacking your phone's information.

If you have any questions about cybersecurity, visit the AIT Website or contact the AIT Service Desk by email or by phone at 630.752.4357 (HELP).