USB power in airports

By dhalperi at 7:49 am on February 9, 2009 | 4 Comments

I noticed that the Denver airport has upgraded its power stands to include USB ports that presumably give power to recharge devices like cell phones, iPhones, and iPods. What I wonder is how I know that’s all that’s going on. I know that, at least for my old iPod shuffle and one of my cell phones, some of these devices don’t authenticate the computers they plug into, but simply appear as R/W flash drives. What’s to stop a malicious version of this kiosk from

  • taking inventory of my files?
  • figuring out who I am and tracking me?
  • installing autorun software (like a virus) onto my device?
  • copying my contacts, my email, my cell phone pictures, my mp3s, etc?
  • <your idea here>?

I don’t know whether this particular power stand does anything more complicated than supplying power and ground to the right two pins, and I suppose that by paying attention (to the screen on a cell phone or the lights on an iPod shuffle) you might be able to tell if serial communication were initiated and something fishy was going on. But that doesn’t provide much comfort; in the end what we need is a good way for portable devices to verify the authenticity of the device to which they connect.

Filed under: Physical Security4 Comments »