Charging phones in public stations is relatively common. However, the FBI advises people to stop using public smartphone charging stations, as devices could be infected with malware.
The alert has also been published on the FBI’s official website.
“Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels, or shopping centers. 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,” FBI Denver tweeted.
The Federal Communications Commission in the United States also informed of this practice known as “juice jacking,” the new cyber-theft tactic.
“If your battery is running low, be aware that juicing up your electronic device at free USB port charging stations, such as those near airport gates, in hotels, and other travel-friendly locations, could have unfortunate consequences. You could become a victim of “juice jacking,” they explained.
The Commission pointed out that “cybersecurity experts have warned that criminals can load malware onto public USB charging stations to maliciously access electronic devices while they are being charged.”
When this malware is installed through a dirty USB port, it can lock a device or export personal data into the hands of the perpetrator, and “criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors.”
Over the years, free public charging stations have proliferated as users need to remain connected through their electronic devices. Hotels, malls, airports, and other businesses have facilitated these stations, so users should remain alert.
“Everyday tasks—opening an email attachment, following a link in a text message, making an online purchase—can open you up to online criminals who want to harm your systems or steal from you. Preventing internet-enabled crimes and cyber intrusions requires each of us to be aware and on guard,” reminded the FBI.
The FBI’s message was not issued due to a recent attack but to provide a service announcement for the public.