Gear we Like: PortaPow 3rd Gen USB Data Blocker ("USB Condom")

Reviewed by Wndsn staff, Germany.

Observations

Significant risks come with the use of USB in public spaces that frequently make charging ones phone or devices on the go untenable.

There are two scenarios to prevent when charging the phone at a public, and hence untrusted USB outlet:

  1. Data theft, by creating a data connection to the device being charged, personal data can be read and/or copied.
  2. Malware infection, a data connection allows data transfer in either direction, and unwanted data can be written to the device being charged.

We spotlight so called "USB condoms", thumb-drive sized devices that are designed to protect the user from malicious data traffic in and out of the device when hooking up to public or unknown USB charging outlets. They work by physically removing the ability to transfer data from the connection.

Strengths

The PortaPow USB Data Blocker does one job and it does it well.

Limitations

As with any security device, a USB data blocker only one element in a more comprehensive set of best practices. Also, keep it from being tampered with.

Specs

Conclusion

The 3rd Gen USB Data Blocker by PortaPow a useful little device, small enough to always bring and use, the USB condom adds an additional layer of (data) security when working in public/unknown/untrusted environments. The tiny space it takes up more than makes up for the larger security it provides.

An upgrade to the condom is a throughput measuring device which does both, providing not just data safety (it has the exact same functionality), but also information about electrical current and voltage. Often, cables are of questionable quality, and many public charging services only have very limited current, so it might help to monitor the (electrical) connection.

Another option is to buy from the same source (or DIY) a dedicated charge-only cable, with a deactivated data connection.


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