Public charging kiosks could download your data

As if we needed one more thing to worry about: You know how one can charge some phones with a USB charger? My phone comes with a USB charger, though I don’t use it often, preferring the wall charger. Lots of people do like their USB chargers and carry them around for their convenience, plugging their phones into their computers when the devices need a quick charge. These folks may also use those free charging kiosks you may have seen in airports and malls and other places for a quick charge, just enough to make a quick call or play another round of Angry Birds.

Turns out that may not be as safe as it sounds. Someone could configure the kiosk so that it would download data as soon as a phone was plugged in. DefCon, a hackers’ conference in Las Vegas with a many security professionals as attendees, featured these charging kiosks with a claim that nothing had been tampered with. Nothing had been tampered with, of course, as these kiosks were for educational and charging purposes. One person had USB transfer mode off, so he thought he’d be fine since nothing could be transferred. He plugged his phone in, and it went into USB transfer mode. Oops. Another person’s boss made everyone at the company carry their own charging devices.

So if this is enough to make you adjust your tinfoil hat, avoid those public kiosks and fight for a wall outlet instead. If you really have to use one, power your phone off before charging, and your data is much more likely to be safe. Or just use your good old AC adapter, and you’ll be just fine.

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