Smartphone users must avoid using public charging stations, warn authorities

Smartphone users must avoid using public charging stations as much as possible to avoid falling prey to hackers. Sensitive information stored in your device, including digital copy of credit/debit cards, sensitive photos, digital contracts or address book will be stolen.

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One of the biggest challenges for a smartphone user is to keep his/her device charged to stay connected with the world. The inevitable need has resulted in an increasing number of charging points that are installed at public places and properties. And, often, you find people queuing with their devices near public charging stations without realising how risky this could be to their private information.

The FBI warns smartphone users to avoid using public charging stations. Fraudsters can infect these ports with malware, and steal data.

Bureau officials warned smartphone users not to use public USB charging ports at airports, hotels and malls. They noted that hackers might take advantage of this opportunity to gain access to a phone or tablet.

Avoid public charging stations or become a juice jacking victim

The FBI Denver office recently tweeted: “Bad actors are using public USB ports to install malware and monitoring software onto devices.

This hacking practice is termed as “Juice-jacking“.

The term came into existence for the first time in 2011 when researchers built a charging station for the purpose of demonstrating the hacking potential at such kiosks.

The FBI and FCC (Federal Communications Commission) issued similar warnings in 2021.

The recent warning is a part of reminders sent by the officials given the increasing use of smartphone charging stations in public places.

Few instances of this malware-theft tactic have been reported in the past. and authorities are now suspecting that hackers are aggressively adopting the juice-jacking tactic to steal data from suspecting smartphone users.

Hackers could gain access to credit card numbers and other personal information if they are able to “juice-jack” a phone. A sizeable share of smartphone users keeps a digital copy of their cards in their phone or comfortably shares three credit card numbers via messages.

Once hackers gain such crucial information, they put up such data on the dark web for sale, which leads to huge damage.

The FCC website warns: “Don’t allow a free USB to drain your bank account.

Customers are encouraged to carry a power bank or plug their USB cords into electrical outlets or use their own charging adapters to charge their phones.

Juice-Jacking: How to stay protected

Experts have warned that if someone must use a USB charging port in a public place, they should look out for signs of tampering and keep a close eye on the activities taking place on mobile phones. This includes the battery draining more quickly, excessive heating, asking for some permission and altered settings.

Wireless chargers and self-owned USB-C cables have been touted as safer options.

Overall, experts encourage users to treat their phones like credit cards and to take similar precautions as smartphones house a lot of sensitive and personal information of users, and have emerged as secret keepers nowadays.

With the advent of path-breaking technologies that we are getting surrounded with, it’s impossible to imagine ourselves without such devices. However, a little bit of precaution and extra effort can prevent us from being easy prey for hackers.


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