Most people are aware of the risk of fake ATM card readers, but the notion of a fake public USB port charging station is less well-known. A major US airport has reported just that.
Both charging and data transfer share the same plug input on most phones, tablets and laptops. This makes it possible to steal data from a device even if the user thinks they are only charging it.
Think back to your last trip to the airport. You probably saw many people waiting for planes, charging their devices. Some people plugged into electrical outlets using charging cubes. These people were the safest. Other people plugged into public USB ports. Most of those USB outlets are just fine, but if you are unlucky enough to plug into a fake one, it may be also trying to access the data on your phone. Depending on your operating system and settings, you may receive a notification asking if you wish to “TRUST” this connection. The answer should always be a resounding NO if you are in a public area. Unfortunately, some operating systems do not give you this type of warning.
To be safe, charge using a cube plugged into an electrical outlet. If that is not available, then look at the outlet carefully to determine whether there is a chance that it has been added on or altered. If in doubt, do not plug your device into the public USB port.