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Power Up, Power Down: The Hidden Risks of Public Charging Stations, Tools

By Katie Sloane | Thursday, March 19th, 2015

In a constantly connected world, the majority of us cannot help but feel reliant on our mobile devices, especially when it comes to battery life percentage.

Whether you’re in the airport, train or just on the go, keeping that effervescent green light out of the red zone becomes a priority, and most will plug into just about anything. With public smartphone chargers on the rise, this resource seems ideal for the battery conscious user. However, prior to plugging in to power up, we suggest proceeding with caution. After all, do you know whose hands that charger was in before? 

What most users don’t realize are the risks they are exposing their smartphones to by utilizing public charging stations and cords. Although these stations are “smart” they are also extremely dangerous. The moment your phone is plugged in, it will try to synchronize with whatever charging device it is connected to. Plugging into one of these USB ports could lead to cyber criminals collecting your personal information, including banking, browsing history and purchasing patterns. Additionally, your once-secure device is now at risk of being owned by malware. How criminals utilize this data ranges from targeting personalized advertisements to spying and identity theft.

On the business side of things, those who use a mobile device for work purposes must also consider the risks they are putting their business' critical data at by charging at a public kiosk. Confidential information, communications, logins, passwords and financial information could all be compromised. As businesses increasingly move away from the desktop, companies should consider educating employees on various risks and implementing BYOD security policies, for example, Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile Device Support, Data, Loss and Theft policies, in addition to, other safeguards regarding company-issued devices. Addressing these areas in your firm's BYOD strategy will help ensure your hedge fund is protected from potential security incidents.

How can you keep your phone secure and powered up while on the go? We suggest considering the following precautions:

  • Use only the charger provided to you by the product manufacturer

  • Buy a security adapter for your USB connection

  • Purchase your own portable charger

  • Avoid using public charging stations

  • Keep your phone locked while charging with a public device

When it comes to sensitive information and mobile security, you can never be too safe. For further information relative to this topic, check out the following articles:

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