A situation we’ve all been in at one time or another: you’re on the road, but your phone’s battery is running low. 20 percent, 10 percent, 5 percent, oh my, the device is about to fail. Fortunately, more and more places have public charging stations, where you can charge your phone via a USB connection. But is it wise to take advantage of them?
Not everyone is convinced of that. For example, note that the FBI is warning users to stop using it immediately. The U.S. security agency points to people who can penetrate your device through public usb ports.
‘Avoid using free charging stations’
It seemed so convenient, usb charging stations on public transport and at the airport. Very annoying of course when you are on your way to an important appointment and your phone almost gives out. That is why you will find free usb ports in new NS trains and also at airports there are more and more charging stations.
People make eager use of those, but it’s not very convenient, says the FBI. “Avoid using free charging stations at airports, hotels or shopping malls,” the U.S. agency advises. “Malicious parties have found ways to use these public usb ports to install malware and cheat software on your device. Bring your own charger and usb cable and use a power bank.”
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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. pic.twitter.com/9T62SYen9T
– FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) April 6, 2023
Why to watch out when using a public usb port
Using a public usb port is like sticking a toothbrush you find by the side of the road in your mouth, cybersecurity company IBM Security warned about charging stations years ago. “You have no idea where that thing has been,” the company told Forbes. “A usb port like that can very easily transmit your data.”
One of the Internet company’s employees explained to the U.S. website how malicious people operate. “Let’s say I’m a bad guy. I go to an airport. I’m not going to just take apart the charging station, but it’s easy to leave my cord behind. When you see a charging cord, you probably grab it or just plug it in. But inside this cord is an extra chip that deploys the malware. It does charge your phone, but in fact I now own your device.”
This is the safest alternative to the public charging station
Should you still have no other option, it is recommended to use a so-called Juice-Jack Defender. That’s a little device you can place in front of the charging cord that blocks all data transmitted through the cord. “It only transmits the voltage,” IBM Security said.
But the safest option is to take your regular charger and plug it into an outlet. Or, alternatively, bring a portable power bank to charge your phone.