FBI Issues Another Warning About Public Phone Charging Stations

If you want to avoid malware, don't use chargers at the airport or mall

Woman waiting for her flight at the airport while charging her phone at charging station. The FBI recently released a warning about charging your phone in public charging spots.
Don't use public USB ports at the airport, says the FBI.
Su Arslanoglu / Getty

You probably shouldn’t charge your phone anywhere that isn’t your home or via a portable power bank. And now the FBI is putting out an official warning against public chargers in a number of locations, citing a concept known as “juice jacking.”

Per CNBC, the FBI is warning people against using free public USB charging stations, saying criminals can hijack them with malware, which can give hackers access to your phone, tablet or computer.

As FBI Denver’s tweet notes, “Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead.” The warning, which was not tied into any specific event, extends to pretty much any public charging station, whether it’s a converted public phone stall or the plugs you find at malls or airports.

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The FBI’s advice? “Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead.” Charge-only cables are an option if you’re desperate, but not a lot of people carry a cache of different USB cables around.

Instead, consider a powerful and portable battery pack, with or without a cord (depending on if you’re using a wireless device or not). Two that stand out: BioLite’s Charge 80, which can power up your laptop but is also good for multiple charges of phone or tablets; and for something less bulky and more versatile, the Satechi Duo, which can power up two devices at once and double as a stand for your phone.

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