Beware of 'juice jacking': FBI warns to avoid public USB ports when charging devices

BySimone Chavoor KGO logo
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
What's 'juice jacking?' FBI warns to avoid public USB ports
The FBI Denver has issued a warning that public electronics chargers could pose a cybersecurity risk.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Beware of public phone and electronics chargers, the FBI's Denver bureau has warned, due to the risk of "juice jacking."

The @FBIDenver Twitter account tweeted last Thursday that people should avoid free public charging stations at locations like "airports, hotels, or shopping centers" because of this cybersecurity risk. The alliterative term "juice jacking" refers to "bad actors" who have hacked or otherwise altered public USB ports so that when an unsuspecting user plugs their device in to charge, it can be infiltrated with malware or monitoring software.

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The Denver FBI said their warning was merely a public service announcement and was not prompted by any particular recent incident. "Juice jacking" is a term that's been used for decades, with regular warnings making the rounds. The Federal Communications Commission has a dedicated page to the scam, noting that "malware installed through a dirty USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator."

The FBI and FCC recommend that users plug their devices directly into electrical outlets using their own chargers and cables. The FCC additionally suggests that travelers should use their own car chargers or portable batteries if an outlet is not available.

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