FBI Warns Against Use Of Public Charging Stations For Mobile Phones

charging phone

Consumers should avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels etc, as bad actors may have compromised them, FBI warns

The FBI has issued a warning to people of the cyber risks associated with using public charging stations commonly found in airports, hotels and shopping centres.

In a tweet, the Denver office of the FBI warned that hackers can compromise these public charging stations “to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices.”

This is not the first time there have been warnings about using public charging stations. In November 2019 for example the Los Angeles District Attorney warned that “juice jacking” criminals were loading malware into public USB power charging stations.

FBI warning

Four years later and the FBI has issued a similar “juice jacking” warning.

“Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers,” it tweeted. “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’s Denver field office reportedly said the message was meant as an advisory, and that there was no specific case that prompted it.

The FBI already has similar guidance on its website to avoid public chargers, as part of its advice on how to avoid scams and ensure cyber safety.

Juice jacking

Juice jacking typically sees criminals load malware onto charging stations or even infected cables they leave plugged in at the stations, so they may infect the phones and other electronic devices of unsuspecting users.

“The malware may lock the device or export data and passwords directly to a scammer.

The best advice is for travellers to rather use an AC power outlet, not a USB charging station, or purchase their own power bank for when their devices need a power top up.

It should be noted that hackers tend to find setting up a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot a more effective hijacking option.

In 2017 for example, Wi-Fi users at a Starbucks in Buenos Aires found their computers’ processing power was being used to mine cryptocurrency when they connected to the wireless network.