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Charging your phone using public USB ports isn't as safe as you might think

One more thing to keep in mind the next time you have a low battery.

Image: Monitotxi/Flickr

IF YOUR PHONE is running low on battery and you’re in a public space, you would think that plugging it into a computer or charging station would be fine, but even that carries its own risks.

Looking at the danger of charging your phone in a public charging station, security firm Kaspersky Labs found ways to gather information about the devices plugged in and even install software onto one of them.

The researchers tested it out by connecting different iOS and Android phones to computers and found that private data like device name, manufacturer, serial number and device type is transferred from smartphone to computer.

“USB ports were designed not just to provide charge, but also to transfer data. So whenever a mobile device is connected to a USB port, it attempts a handshake, during which it transmits some data,” said Kaspersky Lab researcher Alexey Komarov.

The amount of data varies depending on the mobile’s platform and the operating system of the host, but in any case it’s more than ‘just charge, nothing personal’ – as we found out, this data includes device name, vendor name and serial number.

Using a regular PC and micro USB cable, they were able to add a third-party app to a phone in the space of three minutes. The app had access to the phone’s core files and could not be uninstalled through normal methods.

The main advice offered is you can’t tell what a public charging station is connected to. Unless you’re plugging it into a trusted device or computer, you’re better off sticking to normal plugs when charging.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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