FBI Issues Warning About Using Public Phone Charging Stations

‘A corrupted charging port can allow a malicious actor to lock a device or extract personal data and passwords’

FBI Issues Warning About Using Public Phone Charging Stations

In order to prevent infecting their devices with malicious malware, the FBI is cautioning people against using public phone charging stations.

According to a tweet last week from the FBI's Denver bureau, bad actors are using public USB stations like those found in shopping centers and airports to transmit malware and spy software. The agency did not give any particular instances.

The organization urged in the tweet to "carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead."

When a device's battery is dangerously low, many find public charging stations to be enticing, but security professionals have long expressed worries about the risk. To explain the issue, researchers came up with the phrase "juice jacking" in 2011.

According to Drew Paik, a former employee of the security company Authentic8, "Just by plugging your phone into a [compromised] power strip or charger, your device is now infected, and that compromises all your data," he said to CNN in 2017.

Data is sent from your phone to other devices via the same wire that you use to charge it. For instance, you may download images from your phone to your computer when you link your iPhone's charging cable to your Mac.

According to Paik, who previously spoke to CNN, once a port is hijacked, a hacker may access any data. This includes all of your emails, texts, pictures, and contacts.

In collaboration with our partners, the FBI frequently issues reminders and PSAs, according to Vikki Migoya, public affairs officer at the FBI's Denver bureau, who spoke to CNN. This served as a broad warning to all Americans to exercise caution and safety, especially when traveling.

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission updated a blog post cautioning that a compromised charging port might enable a bad actor to lock a device or steal personal information and passwords.

According to the FCC blog post, "In some circumstances, criminals may have purposefully left cables plugged in at charging stations." Even contaminated cables being distributed as promotional freebies have been reported.