New York CNN —
The FBI is cautioning consumers to steer clear of public phone charging stations to protect their devices from potential malware.

Public USB stations, such as those in malls and airports, are being exploited by bad actors to distribute malware and monitoring software, according to a recent tweet from the FBI’s Denver branch. The agency did not cite specific instances.

“Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead,” the FBI advised in the tweet.

Although public charging stations are convenient for devices running low on battery, security experts have long warned about the associated risks. The term “juice jacking” was coined in 2011 to describe this issue.

“Plugging your phone into a compromised power strip or charger can infect your device and compromise all your data,” Drew Paik, formerly of security firm Authentic8, explained to CNN in 2017.

The same cord used to charge your phone also transfers data to other devices. For example, when you connect your iPhone to your Mac with a charging cord, you can download photos from your phone to your computer.

If a port is compromised, hackers can access a wide range of information, including your email, text messages, photos, and contacts, Paik previously explained to CNN.

“The FBI regularly provides reminders and public service announcements in collaboration with our partners,” Vikki Migoya, public affairs officer at the FBI’s Denver branch, told CNN. “This was a general reminder for the American public to stay safe and vigilant, especially while traveling.”

The Federal Communications Commission also updated a blog post on Tuesday, warning that a corrupted charging port can allow a malicious actor to lock a device or extract personal data and passwords.

“In some cases, criminals may have intentionally left cables plugged in at charging stations,” according to the FCC blog post. “There have even been reports of infected cables being given away as promotional gifts.”

Photo by Mental Floss

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