Financial Friday: how to protect your personal information from ‘juice jacking’

WAFF's Haley Baker reporting
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 12:37 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Although there aren’t many reported cases of ‘juice jacking,’ the FBI and the FCC are now warning the public about this threat. These ‘jacked’ charging stations can be found at airports, hotels, and malls.

‘Juice jacking’ is where cybercriminals load malware onto public USB charging stations, charging ports, or charging cables to maliciously access electronic devices while they’re being charged. Once you plug your device into a public charging station to charge it, malware is installed or transferred on the device, allowing the criminal to steal sensitive information or take control of the device. Criminals can then use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors.

WAFF talked to Redstone Federal Credit Union’s Information Security expert Ashish Baria. He explained more in-depth how it works.

“As soon as you plug in your device and a connection is established, malware is installed on your connected device. The malware remains on the device until it is detected and removed by the user. Some malware leaves no trace and is hard to detect.”

Baria says there are some steps you can take to avoid it:

  • Avoid Charging Stations: Avoid using free charging stations in public areas such as airports, hotels, shopping centers, etc. Cybercriminals can install malware or monitoring software onto your device using the infected USB ports.
  • Plug into AC power Outlet: Don’t plug your device into the USB port, instead carry your own charger and plug it into an AC power outlet and use your own USB cable when traveling.
  • Portable power bank: If you are concerned about not having access to an electrical outlet, then carry an external power bank or battery pack. They can charge your phone and other electronic devices on the go.
  • Data Blocker: You can also use a USB Data blocker, which is a small device that plugs into a USB port and only allows for charging, preventing any data from being transferred. They are inexpensive and easy to use.
  • Use Charging-Only Cables: If you are in a bind and must use a public charging station, make sure you use a charging-only cable, which disables data transfer and only allows for charging when plugged into a USB port. If you plug your device into a USB port and a prompt appears asking you to select “share data” “trust this computer” or “charge only,” always select “charge only.”
  • Keep your devices updated: It’s always important to keep your devices updated with the latest software updates and security patches. Cybercriminals often exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software to carry out these attacks.

Bottom Line: Think twice before using mobile charging stations and if possible, avoid them and carry a power bank or your own charger.

Click Here to Subscribe on YouTube: Watch the latest WAFF 48 news, sports & weather videos on our YouTube channel!