Here’s another really good reason not to use public phone chargers

'Juice jacking' is a growing trend used to hack phones, according to the FBI and NordVPN.

Although travelers should always be wary when using public Wi-Fi networks, they should also watch out for public charging stations as well, a new report has claimed.

This is according to Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity advisor at NordVPN, following warnings already issued by the FBI (opens in new tab) on the emergence of this new cybercriminal tactic. 

The popular VPN provider released a study (opens in new tab) last year calming that most holidaymakers are already scared of using public Wi-Fi networks, a fear that seems justified given that the study also revealed a quarter of them have been hacked when using them.

‘Juice jacking’

It seems that now, however, travelers should also be concerned about so-called ‘juice jacking’, where bad actors can manipulate public USB charging stations to deliver malware and spyware to users’ devices. Personal data can also be stolen to commit acts of financial and identity theft as well.

The practice can be hard for users to detect, although some may notice suspicious purchases or calls having been made on their device. It may also negatively impact performance, making their phone slower to operate or hotter than usual, which could be signs of malware infection.

The FBI’s advice is to bring your own plug and USB cable to charge from a standard public power outlet instead. Warmenhoven concurs on this point, further advising the use of power banks so you won’t need to worry about losing battery power and being forced to reply on public chargers. 

Alternatively, Warmenhoven recommends using a USB data blocker, a device that plugs directly into your phone and acts as a shield between your device and the public charging cable.

Attacks on mobile devices should be taken as seriously as those that occur on desktop platforms. Recently, we have seen malware delivered via malicious apps that even appear on Google’s own Play Store, which have been downloaded 100 million times.

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