“Bad actors” can hack into free public charging stations to steal data and install malware, the FBI warns

The warning, urging the public to use their own charging equipment, comes more than a year after the FCC issued a similar warning about ‘juice jacking’



Some free public charging stations may not be safe to use, according to federal officials.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning people to avoid using free public charging stations due to concerns that cybercriminals could hack into the system, according to its website.

“Bad actors have devised ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices that access these ports,” the bureau says.

THE The Denver FBI officewho tweeted the warning on Monday, said those wanting to charge their phones for free in public should bring their own charging equipment “and use an electrical outlet instead.”

The FBI message comes more than a year and a half after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a similar warning about the practice, known as “juice jacking.”

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In its October 2021 bulletin, the FCC said malware installed on phones via free phone chargers “can lock down a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the offender.”

“Criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors,” the commission added.

“Juice jacking” — coined in 2011 — occurs when a USB cable used to charge a device “opens a path” for cybercriminals to use, according to the Norton Antivirus Protection blog.

The power and data flow in smartphones go through the same cable, giving cybercriminals the ability to access information by pairing one device with another through the charging cable, the company says.

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Once a “trusted” connection is established, information about victims’ phones can be shared with the person on the other end, Norton says.

The connection is only visible at the end that supplies the power, meaning the device owner can’t see what the USB port connects to, according to the blog post.

“So when you plug in your phone, if someone is checking on the other end, they might be able to move data between your device and theirs,” the company says.

Apart from accessing your personal data, the hackers can also install malware on the affected device through these free charging ports.

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Norton says the malware can help cybercriminals collect various types of data, including “GPS location, purchases, social media interactions, photos, and call logs.”

Both Norton and the FCC suggest using an AC wall outlet and carrying personal charging equipment to avoid falling victim to the juice.

The FCC also recommends carrying a charge-only cable, which it says “prevents data from being sent or received while charging.”

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Read the original article in People.

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