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Traditionally, airport woes tend to be related to delays and cancellations and grumpy fellow passengers. But recently an FBI office and the FCC sent out warnings to inform the public that charging stations may be corrupted by hackers using public USB ports. They use malware to lock devices or export personal data directly to a criminal’s phone.
It doesn’t matter if the USB ports are in hotel rooms, airports, lobbies or other public places. They could make you the victim of a cyber threat called “juice jacking.”
Here’s the post from FBI Denver with the warning, advising that it’s a good idea to “carry your own charger and USB cord”:
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
While this does sound unnerving, it’s important to know that there are no documented cases of something like this ever happening, and some analysts think the threat is overblown. Regardless, it’s wise to take precautions. To stay safe, bring along your own charger or a USB data blocker to safeguard your data.
The suggested solution: Plug into an old-fashioned electrical outlet. Or, use your own charger and USB cord. You could also use a device called a data blocker. Data blockers work by physically barring two data wires in your USB from connecting; this allows it to charge, but it won’t transfer data.
Here are a few protective items you should consider:
Jsaux USB Data Blocker (4-Pack For $12.99)
Protect yourself against juice jacking by blocking access to hackers with this $12.99 USB data blocker. The small, lightweight device is easy to transport and has a high average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from more than 1,600 users. People found it worked well for traveling and liked the peace of mind it provided. Since you get four for the price, you can charge and protect several devices at once.
LovellTec USB Defender ($11.99)
Stop hackers from adding malware or viruses to your device with the USB Defender by LovellTec for $11.99. Users call it a “must have” for traveling and the company claims it’s like having “insurance against hacking at an affordable price.” This data blocker has a 4.4-star rating from around 270 customers.
One reviewer, Discerning Customer, said, “These gave me the confidence to plug in my phone for charging ANYWHERE, whereas I am normally paranoid about plugging my phone into strange usb ports.”
Rgvota Portable Charger 38800nAh LCD Display($31.45)
Rather than relying on plugging into outlets, you can bring power along with you with this small portable charger that juices up to four devices at once. The built-in intelligent chip safeguards your computer, phone or headphones against overcharging, excessive currents and overheating while the LED digital display helps you keep track of how much power you have.
We like how it comes with a three-year warranty and lifetime technical support. More than 8,000 reviewers give it 4.3 stars. This portable charger is available for $31.45 on Amazon.
Stay safe out there! If you do need to plug your phone directly into a USB port without a data blocker and a prompt appears asking if you “trust this computer,” the FCC recommends choosing the “charge only” option instead.
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