The Denver office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI Denver) has issued a warning to not use public charging stations due to a growing malware risk. Public charging stations can often be found at transportation hubs like airports or bus stations, as well as popular commercial properties like the mall. They are equipped with USB charging ports built directly into walls or counters. However, according to the FBI, bad actors can swap out the USB ports for their own devices.
By changing or tampering with a public USB charging port, a bad actor can “juice jack,” which is the FBI’s term for illegally accessing hardware through a device disguised as a charging port. To make the situation even more confusing for the average person, the “juice jack” ports work as charging ports. People can plug in a phone, see the battery is being charged, and even continue to use the phone as normal. Meanwhile, the entire time, the device is secretly tampering with their phone, laptop, or another electronic device.
A tampered-with public charging port might be able to:
- Corrupt software
- Steal data
- Record passwords
- Lock or unlock applications or accounts
- Install spyware
- And more
It is estimated that the placement of “juice jack” USB ports in public areas like airports has increased by 50% since 2019. The problem has become so widespread that the FBI and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) both recommend not using any public USB charging stations. Instead, bring your own portable charger that can be plugged into an electric outlet. The especially careful can even use a USB data blocker, which is a device that is plugged between the wall and the phone or laptop and prevents data transfers.
Remember this adage: When in doubt, leave the charging cord out.
At The Law Office of Josh Branch in Athens, Georgia, we are truly committed to doing whatever we can to protect the people in our communities, both near and far. That’s why we like to take the time to spread awareness about important public safety issues in our blog series, “Stay Safe Georgia.” Be sure to visit our blog often for more entries.