“Ooo, a public recharging station!” you think, your phone’s battery life is indicated by a slim red line. Let it die, says the FBI: that USB port might be a digital honeytrap, hoping to infect your gadgets with malware. Instead, use the mains.
“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.”
Juice jacking, as it’s known. The FCC warned of it years ago. I’d like to see some numbers on this, though–even just a few anecdotes. It has a vague Halloween scent of “drugs ‘n’ razors” cop talk about it.
Cybersecurity experts have warned that criminals can load malware onto public USB charging stations to maliciously access electronic devices while they are being charged. Malware installed through a dirty USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors.
In some cases, criminals have left cables plugged in at the stations. Fraudsters may even give you infected cables as a promotional gift, according to a New York Times story.