Take Caution Before You Borrow Someone’s Charging Cable

11/18/2019

You know the feeling. You’re traveling and your phone is low on juice. Desperately, you search your bag for the charging cable you always keep there – only to remember you lent it to your friend last week and never got it back.

What to do?person charging phone

And then, a stranger appears out of nowhere, with a friendly smile on their face and a charging cable in hand.

“Do you want to use this?” they ask.

What do you do?

A.   Smile your thanks, grab the cable and plug in your phone.
B.   Say “No, thank you,” before walking away, dead smartphone and all.

If you chose B, you made the right choice. Cyber security experts are warning against using a stranger’s charging cable or even borrowing one from an airport official or front-desk concierge at a hotel.

Charles Henderson, global managing partner and head of X-Force Red at IBM Security, warns that cyber hackers can easily implant charging cables with malware to hijack mobile devices and computers. This can spell disaster for the desperate traveler who graciously accepted the spare cable from their fellow passenger and plugged in their phone or laptop. These compromised cables can be used to remotely access the device and are available on the Darknet for just $200 each.

Unlike most scams aiming for as wide a target base as possible, using a charging cable to hack a victim’s device can only be pulled off on one victim at a time. Lucky for us, this means the charging cable hack isn’t as widespread – yet. Henderson warns that the relatively inexpensive technology for the hack and the fact that it is so easy to make the cable look innocent could mean an upsurge soon.

For now, it’s best to be aware of this threat and to practice caution when traveling.

To avoid falling victim, always pack an extra charging cable in your handbag. If you forgot to take one or you can’t seem to find it, purchase a new one to use while you’re away. You can find charging cables in almost any convenience store for under $10 – a small investment for your safety.



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