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Sep 12, 2023

How To Safely Charge Your Phone At Airports

How To Safely Charge Your Phone In Public Ports

This post may contain affiliate links; please read my disclosure here.

Following up on many posts on charging your devices safely (including Good To Know: Charging Your Phone Safely While Traveling), there is a travel gadget that provides a safer way to charge your device in public charging ports if you do not have a portable charger.

This gadget is USB Data Blocker.

These small portable devices protect against "juice jacking." Per FCC, juice jacking is when bad actors can load malware onto public USB charging stations to maliciously access electronic devices while charging. Malware installed through a corrupted USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can then use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors.

This is especially important while traveling as you are more likely to run out of juice for your phone and other gadgets when away from home. In these situations, you are more likely to find yourself where you have no choice but to use a shared or public USB port.

Similarly to using a VPN to protect your internet traffic, you want to use a data blocker to protect your USB port and device.

Company PortaPow was the first manufacturer to build a USB data blocker. The UK-based company invented it in 2013. It is now being used by several large corporations as depicted on their site:

The PortaPow USB-A Data Blocker is a small USB pass-through fob. It has an anti-fraud feature. On the inside of the male portion of the device, where there are data pins on a standard USB stick, it is an empty space. Two charging pins on the sides do not pass data.

USB ports and plugs use different pins to transfer power and data. Eliminating the data pins makes it possible to transfer power without any data. Hence creating a more secure purely for charging environment. 

How to check if the USB data blocker is working

  • Plug your phone directly into your computer without going through the data blocker. Then verify that you can open your phone as a drive. In Windows, it should show up in Windows Explorer.

  • Unplug your phone, then plug it back into your computer using the data blocker. Look for your phone in Explorer. If you can’t see the phone, the data blocker is working.

While free and public USB ports can be a lifesaver when your devices are low on power, there are safer ways to charge your phone.

- Power-only USB cables
- Portable phone charger
- USB data blocker device

Related links:
FBI warns against using public phone charging stations
Goodbye free charging stations. It’s now being advised you should never charge your phone at the airport

Get a reliable VPN for your computer and phone for travel and at home.

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