What the Tech: FBI warns consumers risks of public charging stations

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 3:56 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - A warning was issued from the FBI about charging smartphones in public when using charging stations in airports and other places.

Agents warn bad actors have figured out how to install malware on phones plugged into those charging stations.

A long day in airports and your phone will need charging. Airports have these convenient chargers under seats and maybe a wall of them. The FBI says they’re unsafe, and you should never use them.

The concern is that “bad actors” have figured out a way to install software on those charging stations to exchange information to and from the phone. It’s called “Juice Jacking,” meaning, bad guys can download your data and install malware on the phone that can steal information even after you unplug it.

Fortunately, Apple has safety features to protect an iPhone or iPad from “juice jacking.” If you plug your phone into a charger and see a prompt that says, “Trust this computer,” that’s a warning; it isn’t just a charger. If you see that when using a public charger, unplug the phone.

If you just have to use those charging stations or a public computer in a hotel or library, you can pick up one of these data-blocking adapters that prevents your phone from sharing or receiving data.

Another option is to use your own charging block and plug it into an electrical outlet. It’ll charge faster too.

Or, and maybe better, pick up a portable charger. You can find them for under $20 now and take them wherever you need them.

Anker and other brands make these portable chargers that connect to phones wirelessly, so you don’t have to keep up with a cable.

The FBI issued a similar warning a couple of years ago. And didn’t say if there was any evidence of compromised charging stations, only that it is possible.

In the same warning, the FBI urges travelers to be careful of public Wi-Fi networks and to refrain from doing banking or other important work while on a Wi-Fi network.

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