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FBI: Free Public Phone-Charging Stations Are Dangerous

Malware could be introduced onto your device, bureau warns
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2023 3:00 AM CDT
Updated Apr 15, 2023 4:15 PM CDT
FBI: Don't Use Free Public Phone-Charging Stations
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / Dicky Algofari)

Desperate for some juice for your phone while traveling? Don't resort to using a free public phone-charging station, the FBI warns. "Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers," the FBI's Denver office tweets. "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 tells Axios the warning is just a regular reminder of an FCC consumer warning about the issue; the Denver office did not reference any specific recent incidents. Axios notes it's a tricky attack to pull off, and not many cases have been publicly reported lately.

The FCC warning, last updated in 2021, refers to "juice jacking" as a cyber-theft tactic in which "malware installed through a dirty USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors." Fraudsters, they warn, might leave charging cables plugged in to charging stations, or give out cables disguised as promotional items. "Consider carrying a charging-only cable, which prevents data from sending or receiving while charging, from a trusted supplier," the FCC suggests. Public WiFi networks can also allow cybercriminals to target people, the agency warns. (More FBI stories.)

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