"USB condom" keeps your devices safe in public ports
September 16, 2013
Conscious that injudiciously inserting one's USB charger into just any old public port might expose one's handheld device to any manner of nasty malware (or data theft, for that matter), experimental security outfit int3.cc has come up with the USBCondom, a go-between device that creates a break between the data pins of your USB connector and those of the public USB port you're plugging into. The power connection is maintained, however, allowing you to charge your smartphone or what-have-you in a state of graceful equanimity.
int3.cc specifically cites the phenomenon of juice-jacking as cause for concern. The fact that USB cables carry both power and data means they are potentially ripe for abuse when it comes to desperate smartphone users – iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry alike – plugging into public chargers to boost their battery charge. Theoretically, all that is required is for the charger to be connected to some form of computer which is able to pull data, such as photos or contact details, from the smartphone when it is connected.
Alternatively, it is conceivable that the computer could implant malware onto the phone, a process demonstrated by security researchers at this year's BlackHat security conference using iOS devices, singled out because they are seen by some as more secure than competing smartphones. "In this presentation, we demonstrate how an iOS device can be compromised within one minute of being plugged into a malicious charger," the team wrote in its presentation summary for the BlackHat website.
To be sure, some phones may be more susceptible to data theft and malware than others, but what is certain is that by breaking the data connection, int3.cc's USBCondom removes all doubt. The device is currently sold out, but a new batch is due some time today. USBCondoms are offered in both Type A to Mini-B and Type A to Micro-B variants.
Gizmag would like to assure readers that innuendo was kept to an absolute minimum in the writing of this story.