Smartphone Juice Jacking: Basics and Examples

May 7, 2021

There are a number of potential phone repair issues we assist with at FixIT Mobile, and one of the most common is charging problems. A phone’s charging area may run into a few issues over the years, and we’re happy to deal with all of them – and also to offer you general expertise and protection against certain risks or threats that may face this area of any smartphone.

While most of the risks we’re referring to here are natural ones like dirt or debris in the charging port, issues with the charger itself or related concerns, there are also certain direct threats that may utilize the charging port as well. One of these that’s become well-known within the last two years or so is known as “juice jacking” – what is this, is it a legitimate threat to your phone, and how can you prevent any risks of it taking place? Here’s a primer on everything to know in this area.

Juice Jacking Basics

As the use of smartphones has become almost universal in today’s world, there are numerous public areas that maintain charging areas via free USB chargers. You’ll find these in places like hotels, airports, malls, arenas and many other locations where people regularly congregate for long periods of time.

In the vast majority of cases, these public outlets are no risk to use. However, certain hackers may attempt to set up malicious code that’s present in the charging ports, capable of delivering malware to any device that’s plugged into the port. This can either be done to the actual port itself or even to an AC adaptor or charging cable – these cables are able to transmit not only electricity, but also several forms of data.

Examples in Recent Years

There have been several examples of juice jacking technology that have been discovered or introduced within the last decade:

  • 2011: The first instance of this was actually an experiment done by Aires Security at DefCon in 2011.

  • 2012: About a year later, a form of attack utilizing USB OTG (on-the-go) features was identified, one that would unlock the phone being charged and steal the authentication keys to their Google account.

  • 2013: At the Black Hat conference this year, a new USB hacking concept that implanted a Trojan into phones was introduced.

  • 2015: An AC adaptor that would decrypt and record all keystrokes from any Microsoft wireless keyboard was shown off.

Clearly, there are numerous capabilities out there for hackers when it comes to this area.

“Video Jacking”

Another format of this same theme that’s taken place is known as video jacking, which involves the ability of a connector to create a situation where smartphones mirror their display onto another monitor. This one was also displayed at DefCon in 2016, and showcased a USB cable that would record and send video from a smartphone screen – this would allow for theft of any personal data that showed up on the screen. Anyone using a smartphone with HDMI capabilities would be potentially affected. For more on juice jacking, or to learn about any of our phone repair, tablet repair or other device repair services, speak to the staff at FixIT Mobile today.