Charge Your Phone in Public?

Image of free charging station

Watch That Port!

Smartphones have become ubiquitous, and having a charged cellphone provides a sense of security. That’s why, when the battery meter starts to dip, a cold sense of panic rises in your stomach.

Many public places have begun to adapt to this change by providing USB ports in addition to electrical outlets. That means smartphone owners can now plug directly into the wall.

Sadly, though, this public good has become a playground for thieves. Scammers have hooked tiny computers into some of those ports. When you plug in, they can then install programs on your phone which report back personally identifiable information that’s used to commit identity theft. Alternately, thieves use the connection to look through your phone’s contents, stealing browser history data – including passwords. It’s called “Juice Jacking,” and it can take as little as three minutes to break your phone wide open.

Obviously, these scammers choose places where they can do the most damage — airports, shopping malls and other places where people linger. If you’re at a place you trust, feel free to use the power. However, if you’re in a public place use these tips to stay safe and avoid Juice Jackers.

1.) Carry (or borrow) a power plug

The easiest way to thwart the scam is to only plug your phone into electrical outlets. There’s no computer on the other side. Yes, it’s a hassle to carry one more thing, but it’s worth it to avoid compromising your personal information. Shop around to find a compact converter and keep it in your bag. If a power plug is a real hassle, only carry it when your phone is low on juice.

In a pinch, you can also borrow a plug from a laptop user. While not quite universal, chargers are pretty interchangeable.

2.) Pick up a battery

Consider carrying your power solutions with you. Advancements in battery technology have made them smaller and more efficient than ever. A battery pack the size of a pen can completely charge your smartphone. Slightly larger packs can provide several days’ worth of charge.

You can also keep a battery pack in your glove compartment. That way, you get the security of knowing you’ve got a charge when you need one without having to lug it around.

3.) Conserve your power

The easiest way to avoid using a public charging station is not to need one in the first place. There are several things you can do to save your phone’s charge if it’s running low, like changing your wallpaper to all black.

For slightly more savings, keep your apps updated. Running outdated software could be chewing up your battery life. Similarly, don’t enable auto-update. This can quickly drain data while also burning through battery life. Update apps manually when you’re connected to WiFi, or just disable automatic updates if your battery situation is dicey.