5 Ways to Protect Traveling Employees from ‘Juice Jacking’

This dangerous new malware puts your company’s data at risk when on-the-go employees are in need of a phone charger. 
By: | December 13, 2019

When your employees are on the go, it can be easy to focus on the traditional risks — car accidents or threats to employee safety as they fly or travel abroad. 

But when people travel for work, company data could also be at risk, especially if employees need to charge their company phone or laptop. 

A recent article from the New York Times details how public charging stations at airports, hotels and train stations are being loaded with malware that can infect devices that are plugged into them. 

Known as juice jacking, this new cyber attack threatens business travelers’ personal and professional data. 

What Is Juice Jacking?

Juice jacking occurs when people plug their phones or laptops into USB ports that have been loaded with malware or when they use USB cables that have been loaded with malware. 

This allows hackers to enter the device and gives them access to passwords, email accounts and data like credit card numbers that users save on their devices. Hackers are also able to lock devices and make them unusable. 

Public USB ports and cables, such as those found in airports and train stations are particularly susceptible to this type of cyber crime because hackers can easily rip out USB ports and replace public cables with their own malicious hardware. 

Company phones and laptops aren’t the only devices that put company data at risk when employees travel, however. 

Given that many workers save passwords and other sensitive information on their personal electronic devices, juice jacking could leave your company’s data at risk even if they don’t carry company devices with them. 

A traveling employee’s business email account, company credit card information and other professional data could all be stolen if their phone is subject to one of these attacks. 

How to Protect Your Devices

The New York Times offered these five tips as ways travelers can avoid having data stolen from their device while charging.

1. Bring your own cables. Encouraging employees to bring their own USB cables when they travel can help them avoid the temptation of plugging their devices into public cables that could be infected by a hacker.

2.Use a power outlet. Unlike USB ports, power outlets are difficult to remove and infect with malware. By using a power outlet to charge their phones, employees can reduce the risk of their devices being infected.  

3. Invest in a portable charger. Portable chargers can help people avoid low batteries that send them searching for public charging stations. 

Making portable chargers available to traveling employees can protect business data by making sure workers always have a trusted source to plug into.  

4. Avoid chargers given out as promotional gifts. It can be tempting to grab a free, promotional USB charger that’s being given away at a business conference, but cyber security experts say it’s best to leave those cords in the expo hall.

“You can easily brand these things so you can make it look like any other cable,” Liviu Arsene, a cyber security expert at BitDefender, a Romanian cyber security and antivirus software company, told the New York Times.

“When people see it, they don’t really think or expect it to be malicious in any way.” 

5. Get “condoms” for your USB cords. One of the best ways to protect your device, according to cyber security experts, is getting attachable protective devices for their USB cables.

Known as USB condoms, these devices disable the data pin on the USB charger and prevent it from sending or receiving data. This allows phones and laptops to charge while protecting your data. 

“For less than five bucks you can buy it,” Vyas Sekar, a professor at CyLab, a security and privacy research institute at Carnegie Mellon University told the New York Times. “that can actually save you.”

Recommended Reading

Businesses take on a lot of risks when their employees travel. From lost passports to food poisoning, here are several exposures you may be overlooking.

While even quick jaunts away from the office to meet clients for coffee have risks, business travelers who go abroad face even more danger. Global travel insurance programs can help mitigate these risks. 

Business travel poses different risks for different people. Women especially are more likely to feel unsafe when traveling for work. In 2018, 90% of female travelers reported that safety concerns affected what they did while traveling. &

Courtney DuChene is a freelance journalist based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at [email protected]

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