[DeveshT, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons]

FBI Issues New Warning About Public USB Charging Stations

The FBI recently cautioned Americans against plugging their phones into public charging stations. Crooks, the Bureau, claims, have figured out ways to hijack public outlets and can use them to install malware that gives them access to many of your devices.

“’Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers,’ a tweet from the FBI’s Denver field office said. ‘Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead.’

The FBI offers similar guidance on its website to avoid public chargers. The bulletin didn’t point to any recent instances of consumer harm from juice jacking. The FBI’s Denver field office said the message was meant as an advisory, and that there was no specific case that prompted it.

The Federal Communications Commission has also warned about “juice jacking,” as the malware loading scheme is known, since 2021.

Consumer devices with compromised USB cables can be hijacked through software that can then siphon off usernames and passwords, the FCC warned at the time. The commission told consumers to avoid those public stations,” reported CNBC.

The FCC also said that “in some cases, criminals may have intentionally left cables plugged in at charging stations. There have even been reports of infected cables being given away as promotional gifts.”

There are ways to reduce your risk. The Hill writes, “If you find yourself in need of a phone charge while in an airport, mall or other public places, experts suggest that people should use an AC charger — the type that plugs directly into a wall outlet — instead of the USB port at a public charging station. Data can’t transfer from your phone while plugged into an AC outlet.

People can also purchase a charging-only USB cable, which will allow a device to charge but disable the connection in the cable that allows data to transfer back and forth.” 

Experts have also said that the best way to ensure your electronics remains safe is to bring your own chargers when you take a trip, including your own AC, car chargers, or USB cables. They also encourage the use of portable, personal battery chargers. 

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