The FBI Says Not to Trust Public Phone Chargers

Photo by Andreas Haslinger on Unsplash

You’re probably aware of the concept of public phone chargers. They are often present in high-traffic areas like malls, airports and hotels. They were originally advertised as a convenient way to charge up your phone on the go, especially in places where you had some time to kill. It was an attractive prospect to be able to fill up your battery while you shop or wait to board your plane. However, this convenience seems to be coming to an end.

The FBI recently put out a statement warning people to stop using these public charging stations. Bad actors, they say, have found ways to use these public USB ports to introduce malware and/or monitoring software onto devices. This scheme is known as “juice jacking.” Hackers can gain access to your phone, tablet or computer via the software installed on your phone through the charger, and possibly steal valuable information. The FBI says that there was no specific case that prompted this message, but rather, it was intended as a preventative advisory.

The FBI recommends carrying your own charger and USB cord and using an electrical outlet instead as a safer alternative. For situations in which electrical outlets may not be available, you can also use portable chargers. Portable chargers, or power banks, can be charged ahead of time or solar-powered, and they hold enough juice for a couple of complete charges depending on their capacity.