Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Paranoia and USB Charging Ports

by Chuck Solly | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | September 5th, 2018

USB charging ports in public places are convenient but possibly risky. Data is transferable over a USB connection, so plugging your phone into an unknown charging port puts it at risk.

Let’s be realistic: You probably shouldn’t be too paranoid about these attacks. I haven’t seen widespread reports of charging ports causing problems. However, many POSSIBLE attacks could happen over a USB port, and avoiding the risk is easy enough that it won’t inconvenience you. Notice that I said POSSIBLE attacks. As of now there haven’t been too many. I predict they will increase however.

The main problem is that USB doesn’t just transmit power—it sends data. That’s why you can plug your phone into your computer to transfer files back and forth, update the phone’s operating system, and back up its contents.

A correctly behaving USB charging port wouldn’t even try to access your phone’s data. But there’s nothing stopping it from trying after you plug in a USB cable. A charging port could try to access private data on your phone or exploit a security vulnerability and run dangerous code on your device. This type of attack is known as “juice jacking.” While older phones just made your photos and other data accessible whenever you plugged in a cable, current iPhones and Android phones usually require your permission to share things. Your iPhone will prompt you to “Trust This Computer” when a device you’re plugged into wants access. On Android, you must enable transferring files over the connection. 

Even if you have USB debugging enabled, you must permit the device to access it. If you don’t give your phone those permissions, it will still allow charging over the port but not allow data transfer. With an iPhone, you’re probably safe unless the charger attacks your phone through an unknown security hole. Of course, Apple just added “USB Restricted Mode” to the iPhone and iPad to prevent them from being attacked by password-cracking tools connected to the Lightning data port. If you have an Android phone, there are bigger risks. Most Android phones run outdated operating systems, which could easily have unpatched security holes that could be attacked through a USB port. They could be attacked in other ways, too. Many current Android devices from eight different manufacturers including Samsung, LG, and HTC are vulnerable to AT commands be sent over a USB cable. You’re safest if you have a Google Pixel device that’s up-to-date, but even that could theoretically be attacked.

One Solution:If you must charge from a USB charging port and you’re concerned about the risks, you can purchase a cheap USB charge-only adapter. An inexpensive Plugable USB charge-only adapter ($6.41) will solve the problem. It’s a little dongle you plug into a USB port before you connect your phone’s charging cable. The data pins are disconnected in the dongle so that only power can be transferred over the connection. This type of device has also been called a “USB condom” in the past.

Use your own charger! In some cases, public charging stations may provide both a standard AC power outlet and USB charging ports. For both safety and maximum charging speed, skip the USB charging ports. Plug your phone’s standard charger directly into the AC outlet and charge from there. Make sure you take your charger where ever you take your laptop or phone. A little discipline is all it takes!There’s no risk of data connection happening over the power outlet—even if network traffic is being transmitted over the electrical wiring. You’re safe as long as you plug in a trusted charger. Rather than hunting down USB charging outlets, you may want to skip them entirely and get a portable battery for your smart phone. Just plug the phone into the battery to charge it whenever you like, even when you’re away from a power outlet. When you find an AC outlet, you can just plug your battery into the outlet to recharge it. You can also do both at once—plug the battery into the outlet and the phone into the battery. You’ll be charging both your battery and phone at the same time, and it’s safe. The only risk is when connecting your phone directly to a USB port.

In the future, widespread wireless charging may eliminate the risk of sketchy USB ports. You can charge your phone at any public wireless charging spot without worrying.

Recently in:

After nearly two and a half years since the people of North Dakota voted to pass the Compassionate Care Act into law in the state, medical marijuana is finally available to patients. Only one dispensary is open right now, but seven…

It was an, “aha,” moment, said Jeremy Jensen. A woman had her vehicle towed into the Fix It Forward Auto Care shop in Moorhead. Jensen and fellow Fix It Forward Auto Care co-founder Matt Carlson had the vehicle on a hoist…

Thursday, April 18, 5-9 p.m.Drekker Brewing Company, 1666 1st Ave N, FargoThe folks at Drekker have partnered with a handful of area artists and the Lend A Hand Up program. A program providing help and hope to families facing…

In 2016, the Rand Corportation’s National Defense Research Institute published a year-long study looking at potential consequences for transgender members to serve within the U.S Military. This study looked at seven different…

The Nordic ModelDr. Thea Hunter, a graduate of Columbia University and an adjunct professor of history at a number of elite colleges and universities, recently died at age 63 of extreme capitalism—and asthma—because of lack of…

Cocktail Showdown

​Yo ho ho!

by Sabrina Hornung

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

After three years Jon Beyer aka “Jonny B” has become the face and the beard behind Jonny B’s Brickhouse in Jamestown North Dakota. Besides the largest selection of craft beers between here and Bismarck, wood-fired pizzas and…

By Gary Usseryusseryg@gmail.comFYB. Three letters, three words, well known by the guys who make up Cascades, and anyone who is a fan of the five-man band. When asked what genre best describes their sound, I was bombarded with at…

Harmony Korine keeps a tight grip on his title as one of the most critic/critique-proof filmmakers of recent times with “The Beach Bum,” a sultry companion piece to 2012’s memorable “Spring Breakers.” Not without its own…

Arts

​Hold your head high

by Sabrina Hornung

“I started to look around at state arts council positions because I felt that even though I had never done that, I felt like it would be a really good blend of skills, so I started to look around in 2016. A few jobs came up but I…

Countless examples can be found throughout the history of great art that was only recognized as such after the life of the artist that created it. Such is true of Georges Bizet’s opera "Carmen."  While its reception during his…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

It seems like the threats to North Dakota’s Badlands never cease. Let’s go back and revisit Wylie Bice. He’s the rogue, rich, rancher up in Dunn County, on the eastern edge of the Badlands, who’s built himself a private…