(The Hill) – The FBI is warning people to not use public phone charging stations, which have become increasingly popular in places like airports and shopping malls.
The problem is that hackers have found a way to introduce malware and other software onto devices through public stations, the FBI said.
“Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels, or shopping centers,” the FBI’s Denver Twitter account said. “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 on social media mirrors the guidance the bureau offers on its website.
The FBI’s Denver office told The Hill nothing prompted the warning on its social media and that it was simply a public service announcement.
The FBI is not alone in its warning to avoid USB charging stations.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also warns against their use on its website, saying hackers are able to load malware onto the USB ports, giving them the ability to “maliciously” access devices. The agency calls it “juice jacking.”
“If your battery is running low, be aware that juicing up your electronic device at free USB port charging stations, such as those found near airport gates, in hotels, and other travel-friendly locations, could have unfortunate consequences,” the FCC said. “You could become a victim of ‘juice jacking,’ a new cyber-theft tactic.”
The FCC warns that such malware can give criminals access to personal data and passwords, which they can use personally or sell to other actors.
Instead of using public USB charging stations, the FCC suggests people use a portable charger, use an AC power outlet or buy a charging-only cable, which does not allow the transfer of information while being used.