Travellers often find themselves with time to kill while waiting for their flights after enduring the arduous process of airport check-in and security. With their phones in need of a recharge, many take advantage of USB charging points available in airport lounges or hotels. However, the FBI has recently issued a warning to smartphone users to avoid using USB charging points in airports or hotels as hackers have discovered a way to infect them with viruses.
The FBI’s Denver office confirmed that its tweet was a public service announcement for consumers. The agency did not confirm whether it has seen an uptick in these cases. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office had previously warned against the practice of “juice jacking,” where hackers load malware onto public USB charging stations, putting private data at risk. Cybercriminals can access a person’s phone or tablet through charging station hardware and compromise sensitive information. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also warned about infected USB cables left in ports.
The FBI issued a warning against “juice jacking,” where hackers can use USB charging stations to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. According to the agency, hackers can gain access to cell phones plugged into the charging ports and can introduce malware or monitoring software onto cell phones and other devices. Free phone-charging stations are often found in shopping centers, airports, and hotels. Some cities also offer free charging at public bus stops.
To avoid becoming a “juice jacking” victim, the FBI advises carrying your own charger and USB cord to plug into an electrical outlet instead. Additionally, be cautious when using public WiFi networks in airports and busy areas. Charging stations that have USB cords already plugged in could signal a hack, according to a report in the New York Times.
The FCC warned that malware installed through a dirty USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors. A free charge could end up draining a bank account.
Bad actors are constantly innovating to find new ways to trick unsuspecting consumers into handing over money. Last summer, Insider’s Avery Hartmans was a victim of a complicated “sim-swapping” scheme that resulted in scammers charging $10,000 to her Chase credit card.
In conclusion, travellers should be cautious when using USB charging points in public areas, including airports, hotels, and shopping centers. They can carry their own charger and USB cord to plug into an electrical outlet instead. Additionally, they should be wary of using public WiFi networks and be alert for charging stations with USB cords already plugged in, which could signal a hack. By taking these precautions, travellers can protect their sensitive information and avoid becoming victims of “juice jacking” or other cybercrimes.