UMD: A Globally Connected University

The Threats

The Threats


The Threats  |  Best Practices  |  What to do if a Device is Lost/Stolen


Juice Jacking

Juice jacking is a method of retrieving data from a smartphone when the owner plugs it in to charge the battery using the USB cables provided at a free charging station. By connecting to the charging station through a USB connection the owner is unknowingly connecting to a malicious computer hidden inside that then automatically downloads as much information from the phone as possible.

To prevent this, always be sure to use the supplied power cord and plug directly into a standard electrical outlet.

Read more about juice jacking.

Electronic Surveillance and Eavesdropping

In many countries outside the United States, individuals have no expectation of privacy when in places like hotels, office buildings, Internet cafes, airports, or public spaces. Travelers should assume that if they have information that may be valuable to another government or company, that information will be intercepted and retained. This is especially true when utilizing wireless communications. Travelers also need to be aware that foreign intelligence services and criminals have the ability to track your movements through your cellphone. They may also be able to activate your device’s microphone even when you think it is turned off.

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Phishing and Other Forms of Social Engineering

Foreign intelligence officers and criminals are often well versed at pretending to be someone trustworthy in order to obtain personal or sensitive information. Travelers should avoid revealing information about the nature of their work or other personal information to individuals they do not know. This information may be solicited through a series of seemingly innocent, but probing questions.

Device Theft, Loss, or Tampering

Criminals, in addition to foreign intelligence services, often employ numerous tactics to steal and/or tamper with electronic devices brought in by travelers. Among these may be pickpocketing and the use of a distraction, which is meant to pull a traveler’s attention away from their devices long enough for an accomplice to grab the devices. In some cases, theft and tampering have been known to occur when devices are left in an unattended hotel room.

A Special Note About Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool for staying connected, not just with friends and family, but with world events. It is also a powerful tool for sharing what’s going on in your world. Unfortunately, terrorists have also discovered the power of social media for coordinating attacks, communicating with members, and even spreading propaganda to recruit new members. As a result, the potential exists that individuals traveling to certain countries may be asked to unlock their social media accounts for inspection by local customs or law enforcement officials before being granted entry into the country. Travelers should keep in mind that many border entry points are considered areas where certain civil rights do not apply to non-citizens until entry is granted into that country. Because of this, travelers should be ready to comply with these requests or, perhaps a more desirable solution, delete all social media applications and any history of their existence from the device(s) before traveling. Typically these applications can be accessed through a web browser while traveling. Then, once back in the US, the mobile applications can be reinstalled on the device(s).