Devices dubbed as ‘USB condoms’ are increasingly getting popular worldwide. This sudden demand in these devices are not because they have a roll to play in someone’s personal life but due to the general scepticism in using public
USB ports for charging phones. USB condom or USB data blocker is a simple device that blocks data transfer when connected to a smartphone or tablet and just allows electricity to pass through it for charging the battery.
These devices cost anywhere around Rs 500 and can be purchased online. One of the popular ones is the PortaPow USB data blocker. It simply needs to be connected to the USB cable and which prevents data transfer when the mobile is connected to a public USB charging station. In other words, this device simply converts your USB cable into a mere charging cable blokcing data transfer.
USB condoms are becoming an important accessory because there is a sudden rise in “juice jacking” or simply called USB charging scam. Attackers install
malware in these public charging stations and when someone plugs their phone for charging, a ransomware can get installed or sometimes the malware can even steal personal data including passwords.
Scammers are also known to leave a charging cable hanging at public stations to grab the attention of someone who has forgotten to get the charger. So, if you find any charging port with a cable lying around it is recommended you do not plug your phone to it. Alternatively, you can use a USB data blocker for safe charging.
In most cases, USB charger scam leads to a ransomware attack. In this, your phone gets locked down and you cannot use the phone unless you pay a ‘fee’ to get it unlocked. The ‘fee’ can be pretty high sometimes and there is no guarantee as to whether the scammer will fulfil his promise of unlocking your phone remotely after you have paid the ransom.
Recently, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office issued an advisory which said, “Travelers should avoid using public USB power charging stations in airports, hotels and other locations because they may contain dangerous malware. In the USB Charger Scam, often called “juice jacking,” criminals load malware onto charging stations or cables they leave plugged in at the stations so they may infect the phones and other electronic devices of unsuspecting users. The malware may lock the device or export data and passwords directly to the scammer.”