Juice jacking is a cybersecurity threat that poses a direct danger to an individual’s personal business-related mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets. The exploit leverages the architecture of mobile devices that uses the same connection to provide power or transfer and synchronize data. Juice jacking presents indirect dangers to enterprise IT environments that may be hard to detect with traditional cybersecurity measures.
An important point to note in our discussion of juice jacking is that it demonstrates that not all cyberattacks are perpetrated through the Internet. Juice jacking leverages physical access to initiate attacks and embed malware on mobile devices. This malware can then be spread to an organization’s IT environment when the affected device connects to the infrastructure.
What is Juice Jacking?
Juice jacking is a cyberattack that involves compromising public USB charging ports so they infect connected devices. NTT’s Cyber Security Reports for April 2023 discusses juice jacking in detail. Threat actors have taken advantage of the increase in the number of free charging stations serving as amenities in hotels, airports, and other public locations. The FBI has issued a warning regarding the use of these free charging stations and the associated risk of juice jacking.
Users do not realize there may be dangers involved in simply powering their devices. While a security-conscious individual would never connect their device to an unknown computer, they may not have the same reluctance to charge their phone or tablet. As with social engineering attacks, misplaced trust is used to compromise security.
How do Threat Actors Perform Juice Jacking?
The entities behind juice jacking attacks use a variety of methods to compromise the devices of unsuspecting users. Commonly used tactics to perpetrate a juice jacking attack include the following techniques.
- Threat actors embed chips in USB charging ports that are designed to steal data or install malware or monitoring software.
- Specially designed and malicious cables that can distribute malware are left connected to charging stations to lure users into connecting to them.
- O.MG cables and adapters are available that can turn a charging device into a WiFi access point, enabling threat actors to connect to devices while they are being charged.
What are the Dangers of Juice Jacking?
Juice jacking presents multiple dangers both to the device directly affected by the attack and any IT environments to which the device connects. Specifically, a juice jacking attack poses the following dangers.
- Data theft and exfiltration directly from the connected device are possible during a juice jacking attack. In situations where a WiFi access point is created by an O.MG cable, a large amount of information can be surreptitiously transferred from the user’s device.
- The installation of malware such as ransomware, banking trojans, and cryptominers compromises the connected device and potentially a larger IT environment to which it connects. The main goal of the juice jackers may not be to infect the mobile device, but rather to use it as a gateway to a more valuable IT infrastructure.
- Monitoring software may be installed to steal credentials that can be used for further exports by threat actors. Until the malicious software is removed, all keystrokes can be collected and transmitted to the hackers. The stolen credentials can be used to gain access to sensitive data resources or systems at a later time.
- The attack may be designed to cause damage and render the connected device inoperable. This can be devastating and cause elevated stress levels, as an individual’s main method of communication can no longer be used. Important meetings may be missed or business opportunities left on the table due to compromised communication.
What Can be Done to Prevent Juice Jacking?
Users can protect their devices against juice jacking with an attachment known as a USB condom. The condom blocks the connection to all pins except the power transfer pin in a USB connection. This configuration eliminates the possibility that malware can be transferred to the device during charging.
Individuals can adopt other preventative methods to guard against juice jacking.
- Avoid using public charging stations if at all possible. Make sure your device is charged before embarking on your trip and use it sparingly until you are in a position to use a safe charger.
- Carry your own cables that only enable power charging and do not allow data to flow through the connection. This makes it impossible for your device to be compromised by juice jackers.
- Consider carrying a portable charger or battery pack if you suspect you will run out of power. The minor inconvenience of bringing additional power along for the ride can help you avoid being juice jacked at the airport.
How an XDR Solution Can Mitigate the Effects of Juice Jacking
We have discussed the methods that can be used to minimize the chances of a device being juice jacked. They all involve avoiding juice jackers by carrying cables, a power source, or a USB condom. Using these devices regularly should keep your mobile device safe from being juice jacked.
XDR is not a cybersecurity solution that can be used directly to prevent juice jacking.
It can, however, be instrumental in identifying and mitigating the aftereffects of a juice jacking attack. The malware picked up in a juice jacking attack may find its way back to an enterprise IT environment where it can cause extensive damage.
XDR helps protect against this possibility in several ways.
- XDR detects suspicious behavior and unusual activity in the IT environment that may be the result of malware. The solution can identify threats that are not detected by traditional cybersecurity defenses.
- An XDR platform alerts security personnel about subtle lateral movements through the environment that are often an indicator of an advanced persistent threat (APT).
- The solution consolidates telemetry from across the environment and prioritizes potential threats so they can be investigated according to the risk they pose to the infrastructure. This feature of an XDR platform is especially useful for small companies with limited security personnel, as it eliminates the need to track down irrelevant alerts.
Samurai XDR is a SaaS solution that can easily be integrated with an organization’s existing cybersecurity stack. It complements the traditional forms of cybersecurity already in place and strengthens a company’s security posture.
Contact the cybersecurity experts at Samurai and learn how easy it is to implement an advanced XDR tool to help protect against the effects of juice jacking and other sophisticated threats to your IT environment.
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