Tuesday, 17 September 2013

USB condom pumped up in press

Some IT news websites have posted excited articles about a new 'USB condom' that protects devices from hostile charging stations.

Unless I'm missing something, I think this excitement is a little unwarranted.

The threat

You plug your phone into an untrusted USB charger. This is secretly connected to a computer that mounts the phone's storage and accesses its data. This is known as 'juice-jacking'.

The solution

If you must charge your devices using an untrusted charging station you may improve your security by turning them off completely. You should receive a faster charge that way, too.

Alternatively use a USB charging cable, which is like a regular cable but the data pins are not connected. You can make one of these yourself very cheaply. It's not hard but, if you don't want to DIY, ready-made options are inexpensive - frequently less than £5.

The USB condom

The USB condom works by "cutting off the data pins in the USB cable and allowing only the power pins to connect through." So, very much the same as a USB charging cable then.

Pricing for this connector is not yet available* but, if it is very much lower than £5, it'll be a worthy addition to any security-conscious traveller's cable bag.

* UPDATE (18/09/2013): Pricing for these devices is now available. The USB Micro-B and USB Type A models are $9.99 each. In my opinion that is poor value for money.