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The Independent has an eye-catching story titled, “Travel blogger warns against charging phones at airports: ‘You will regret it’.” I immediately knew what she was talking about before I even checked out her TikToks. That because I wrote a tip back in 2022 titled: Don’t Get Juice-Jacked: Here’s What You Need to Know and How to Protect Yourself When Traveling
‘Juice jacking’ is the industry term for having a crook steal your phone’s data by putting software into a public USB port. They do it a lot in airports, but it can also be done on an airplane, hotel room, car rental or restaurant. That’s why it’s important to not use these types of charging stations unless you use an inexpensive data blocker.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “If your battery is running low, be aware that juicing up your electronic device at free USB port charging stations, such as those found in airports and hotel lobbies, might have unfortunate consequences. You could become a victim of “juice jacking,” yet another cyber-theft tactic.”
The FCC writes on their website, “Cybersecurity experts warn that bad actors can load malware onto public USB charging stations to maliciously access electronic devices while they are being charged. Malware installed through a corrupted USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can then use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors.”
TikToker @travelpiratesus created a video (embedded below) on this topic, which garnered a lot of media attention, especially when she said, “Do not put your phone in those, do not charge your phone there. You will regret it.”
@travelpiratesus Protect Your Sensitive Data and Stay One Step Ahead: FBI Issues Urgent Warning About Juice Jacking at Airports and Stations! We recommend you avoid USB charging ports in order to protect your data from theft. Cybercriminals have figured out a way to install malware and monitoring software in free-to-use charging stations. The best way to avoid this is to bring your own battery pack to charge your phone. #travelhacks #travelhacksandtips #fbiwarning #datatheft #airportlife #airportsecurity ♬ original sound – travelpirates
There are a few easy solutions to avoid juice jacking:
1. Bring your own charging cables and use an AC power outlet instead of a USB charging station.
2. If you do use a USB charging station use one of these inexpensive data blockers that will prevent getting hacked. Read more about data blockers and how they work here.
3. The easiest way around this is to bring a portable phone charger with you when you travel. It’s the device that flight attendants say they never travel without and frequent travelers always have in their carry-on bag. And the carry-on bag is key here as they are not allowed in checked baggage (besides, it won’t do you any good in your checked luggage.)
Hopefully, you won’t ever get juice jacked but it’s always better to be prepared by knowing how to avoid it in the first place. The chances of it happening are probably slim but why take a chance? It’s better to simply use an AC power outlet, a mag safe charger or a data blocker.
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