To avoid what is known as “juice jacking,” the FBI is urging people not to make use of complimentary USB charging stations to charge the batteries on their devices.
In a tweet last week, the FBI field office in Denver reminded people not to charge their cell phones, tablets, and other devices at the free USB charging stations often found in airports, hotels, and shopping centers
According to the tweet, criminals have found a way to install malware onto the USB charging station ports that can infect devices once they plug into them.
Rather than making use of the complimentary USB charging stations provided, the FBI recommends that people carry a USB/AC adapter that will allow them to charge their devices using an electrical outlet.
This isn’t the first time the government has warned about the risk of using complimentary USB charging stations.
In a 2021 notice, the Federal Communications Commission also warned about the risk of “juice jacking” from these USB ports.
According to the FCC, hackers can upload malware at USB charging stations which will then infect any device that plugs into the USB port. Once the malware infects the charging device, the hackers can then export personal data, including passwords, which they can then use to access the device owner’s online accounts or simply sell the information to others.
To avoid being a victim of “juice jacking,” like the FBI, the FCC also advised carrying a USB/AC adapter to charge devices at an electric outlet. It also recommends carrying a portable charger or external battery when traveling. Additionally, the FCC suggested that people purchase a “charging only” USB cable. These cables prevent data from being sent from or received by the device as it is charging.
According to the FBI, to prevent hacking of online accounts, users should create strong passwords unique to each account and change them regularly. The FBI warns that using the same password on several online accounts will make users more vulnerable if one account is hacked.