Flying this weekend? This $6 USB condom will protect your data from suspicious outlets

Better to have USB data protection and not need it, than need it and not be prepared.

A selection of PortaPow USB condoms, also known as data blockers

A selection of PortaPow USB condoms, also known as data blockers

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

There are three things that I make sure I do when I’m out and about. I seek out the best coffee I can find. I make sure I use a VPN when using public Wi-Fi, and I always make sure I use a USB data blocker, otherwise known as a USB condom PortaPow USB Data Blocker

ZDNET RECOMMENDS

PortaPow USB Data Blocker

A USB-to-USB adapter that protects your connected device from juice-jacking.

View at Amazon

And it’s not just chargers. Cables can also carry out all sorts of malicious activities. 

All these cables and dongles shown below can be used to do bad things to devices.

O.MG cables and dongles can be used to attack unsuspecting devices.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

And don’t think you can look at these cables and see the hacking wizardry inside — you can’t! They’re so easy to confuse with other cables that I keep the little orange tag on them to prevent them from getting mixed up with my regular cables.

These “attack cables” are indistinguishable from standard cables, so much so that I have to mark them with an orange tag.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

So, back to the USB condom data blockers.

Sold by PortaPow

There are data blockers for USB-A-to-USB-A, and USB-C-to-USB-C, the idea being that you can tell if they’ve been tampered with in any way.

Transparent data blocker — perfect for the super-paranoid (or just the really careful).

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The job of the USB condom is simple — to turn any USB port into a charge-only port by blocking all the data lines. Sure, you could make one yourself from a USB cable (slice it up and cut the data cables), but with these bespoke data blockers costing only about $7, it really doesn’t seem worth the hassle.

Another company that makes high-quality charge-only data-blocking cables is StarTech. These cables are one meter long and come inUSB-A-to-microUSB, and USB-A-to-USB-A can be used to, well, kill devices that are connected to them by sending high voltage through the USB port, frying the delicate electronics.

Nasty!

Data blockers can’t protect against USB Kill attacks.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

If you must use a charger, cable, or charging port that isn’t under your control, it makes sense to use a USB condom. If you want an extra layer of protection, take your own charger or power bank (or a charger that’s also a power bank, such as the Anker 733

Live Updates for COVID-19 CASES