Computers

"USB condom" keeps your devices safe in public ports

"USB condom" keeps your device...
Do you connect safely? (Photo: unten44)
Do you connect safely? (Photo: unten44)
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USBCondom schematic
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USBCondom schematic
Do you connect safely? (Photo: unten44)
2/2
Do you connect safely? (Photo: unten44)

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.

USBCondom schematic
USBCondom schematic

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.

Source: int3.cc via The Verge

7 comments
christopher
Do you still need to use this if you've already rooted your phone?
Rocky Stefano
@Christopher What does rooting your phone have to do with malware and/or data theft? Did you think a rooted phone actually gives you better security than the stock firmware installed by a vendor?
Geoffersonian
Well, not to be too frugal (read 'cheap'), but couldn't you acheive the same protection by getting a short USB extension cord and clipping out the data lines? A little tape or heat-shrink tubing and if you're done.
ActiveGuitar
I rather use my own high capacity external battery allowing me to recharge my devices 4 times anywhere...
Zaron Gibson
Geoffersonian, yes you could do that. This device is cheap though and does make for a clean package, and allows you to then use your same USB cable anywhere you actually trust.
Christopher, a rooted phone is actually MORE prone to malware, not less.
Bill Mulger
I like this idea. The risks involved in using potentially dirty public ports stop me from using them, this should allay that fear nicely.
Oh, fellers. I'm guessing that Christopher is a fellow Aussie and the use of "Rooting" is a very funny pun. Look at definition 1:1 here... http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Root
moollar
@people responding to christopher. I'm guessing he's Australian and is making a joke in relation to the condom part of this story. Google what rooting means in the Australian vernacular and it will make more sense....
(I only just saw what Bill Mulger said after I typed the above.....)
Anyway, looks like a nifty solution.