In April 2023, the FBI issued an official warning regarding airport charging stations. The warning centers around the risk of malware transferring to devices plugged into public ports.
Why does this matter? Threats related to USB exploitation have increased by 52% in the last four years.
Let’s look at the actual risk and alternatives to the former convenience of public charging stations.
The Risk of Public Charging Ports
The warning specifically refers to public USB charging ports most commonly found in airports, malls, and hotels. Cybercriminals have found ways to introduce monitoring software and malware onto devices plugged into these public ports. This applies to all devices, including cell phones, computers, and tablets.
While no particular incident caused the FBI to issue the warning, a steady increase in such attacks may have inspired it. The term for this type of hacking has been coined “juice jacking” and refers to malware installed through a corrupted USB port that can swerve to lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the cybercriminal.
If sensitive information is captured, cybercriminals can use it to access a victim’s online accounts or sell the information illegally.
The worst part about juice jacking? You won’t know when it has happened to your device.
While you’re still more likely to have your credit card skimmed, juice jacking is something to be aware of and take steps to avoid if possible.
How to Safely Charge Your Devices
There are easy steps to protect your devices when you’re in public or traveling–while still ensuring you can charge your electronics!
- The FBI advises carrying your own charger and USB cord so that you can use an electrical outlet instead.
- Opt to travel with a battery-operated charger to avoid plugging into public walls or outlets.
- Make sure any sensitive apps on your phone are password protected, ideally with multi-factor or biometric authentication.
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