FBI Warns Against Using Public Charging Stations

The FBI is warning American citizens to watch out for public cell phone charging stations because of malware software.

FBI Sends Warnings Across America

The FBI is warning people to not use public phone charging stations, which have become increasingly popular in places like airports and shopping malls.

Travelers and shoppers should avoid public free phone charging portals, warning that “bad actors” could use these stations to install malware and tracking software onto computers and phones.

This is the practice commonly known as “juice-jacking.”

“Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices,” FBI officials announced Thursday in a tweet.

FCC Also Warns Against Using Public Charging Stations

The FBI is not alone in its warning to avoid the USB charging stations.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also warns against their use on its website, saying hackers are able to load malware onto the USB ports, giving them the ability to “maliciously” access devices. The agency calls it “juice jacking.”

“If your battery is running low, be aware that juicing up your electronic device at free USB port charging stations, such as those found near airport gates, in hotels and other travel-friendly locations, could have unfortunate consequences,” the FCC said. “You could become a victim of ‘juice jacking,’ a new cyber-theft tactic.”

The FCC warns that such malware can give criminals access to personal data and passwords, which they can use personally or sell to other actors. 

Use Your Own Charger

Few cases of “juice jacking” have been publicly reported in recent years, and it’s a difficult attack for malicious hackers to pull off, Axios cybersecurity reporter Sam Sabin notes.

However, if successful, researchers have warned that “juice jacking” could give malicious actors unfettered access to their devices as they charge.

“Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead,” the FBI officials advised.

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