Don't ever use an airport USB charging station without this device

A Forbes story in my Twitter feed recently caught my eye titled, “Why You Should Never Use Airport USB Charging Stations.” I immediately sent it to The Tech Guy, Leo Laporte, to see if it’s true that, as it says in the story, “cybercriminals can modify those USB connections to install malware on your phone or download data without your knowledge.” Leo wrote back immediately, saying, “Yes. There’s a huge risk plugging into USB ports. Alternatively, you can use what Steve Gibson calls a ‘USB condom.’ This is what I use. With this [device] you can safely plug into any USB port for charging only.”

In the Forbes story, author Suzanne Rowan Kelleher writes that state-sponsored hacker groups are increasingly “training their sights on travelers, according to new research from IBM Security.” And to really drive home the need to be wary of these USB ports, here’s how Caleb Barlow, Vice President of X-Force Threat Intelligence at IBM Security,” described the risk to Forbes: “Plugging into a public USB port is kind of like finding a toothbrush on the side of the road and deciding to stick it in your mouth. You have no idea where that thing has been.”

This is great to know because these days there are USB ports available in airports, airplanes, hotels, car rentals, cruise ships, you name it. We all need to charge our devices once in a while, so it seems it would be wise to get this “USB condom” for those moments. Another option is to plug your USB charger directly into an electrical outlet using an adapter or your own charger, which is what I do when I’m traveling. In any case, be wary of any public USB charging station.

Related: Travel Product of the Week: TP-LINK TL-PB10400 Dual-Port Ultra External Battery Portable USB Charger Power Bank



Have your own tip? Email it to [email protected]!
Want to see more tips? Click here for all 1,463!

Want even more travel tips? Sign up here for the Daily Travel Tip newsletter! Just fill in your email address and check the Daily Travel Tip box—and you’ll have Johnny’s best tips, straight to your inbox each day!

If you already subscribe to our weekly newsletter, you can sign up on the same page. Just fill in your email and check the Daily Travel Tip box on the same page and you’ll receive an email with a link to update your preferences. On that page, just click the Daily Travel Tip box and Update Profile.  


Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

The comments on this page are not provided, reviewed, or otherwise approved by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

2 Comments On "Don't Ever Use an Airport USB Charging Station Without This Device"
  1. Ram Suntha|

    This is mostly a “Scare Tactic” per tech gurus.
    (Ref Rich on Tech)

  2. John Public|

    Definitely possible. If you travel a lot and would rather not play the odds, 2 for $11 (curr price at Amazon) is good for piece of mind.

    There’s no higher recommendation than coming from Steve Gibson, he lives & breathes computer security.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *