Q&A – Are Public Charging Stations Safe For Mobile Devices

Today’s entry - Just heard your interview with the gentleman discussing how charging cables could be hacked. I have a question that you didn’t ask, nor did the gentleman cover. Could the free charge IG stations at places like hospitals, waiting rooms and so on be corrupted as well by this new threat? This might be something many other listeners would like to know.

Bottom Line: This question derives from a conversation I had with cybersecurity expert Shawn Tuma. He explained that physical charge cables can be loaded with malware and that it’s a growing tactic being used by hackers looking to gain access to our mobile devices. For that reason, you never want to buy a used charge cable for any of your mobile devices, and you want to be especially careful if you borrow or use someone else’s. 

Now, the answer to your question about public charging stations is yes. Public charging stations can be compromised and could be a security risk for your mobile devices. That doesn’t mean they can’t be safely used. For any malware to be effective, it needs to interact with your mobile device. If your device is powered off, it isn’t able to do so. If you want to be especially careful when using public charging stations, turn your devices off while charging them. Depending on your device this can work one of two ways. Some devices will charge while powered off. Others, like Apple devices, require an extra step. There’s a misconception that some devices, including iPhones and iPads, can’t charge while they’re powered off, that's not true but here’s what you have to do. 

  1. Plugin the charger
  2. Quickly go to your “Settings” app
  3. Under “General” scroll to the bottom and use the “Shut Down” option

If you use that method your device can charge safely even if a charger or charging station is compromised. It also has the added benefit of charging your device much quicker than chargin while it’s on. 

Submit your question by using one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week: The Shows

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