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The FBI Says Hackers Are Using Public Phone Chargers to Steal Your Information. Here's How To Avoid Falling Victim to the Scam. The cybercrime is called "juice jacking."

By Emily Rella

entrepreneur daily
Getty Images
A free recharging station for smart phones and electronic devices at a Century 21 store in Queens, NY.

When you're out and about and your phone is about to die, finding a public charging station can feel like a miracle.

But now, the FBI is warning cell phone users to steer clear of these seemingly helpful stations as they might be rife with bad intentions.

On Twitter, the FBI in Denver told social media users that plugging in devices at these stations can lead to "bad actors" installing "malware and monitoring software" on those devices.

"Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers," the agency said via Twitter. "Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead."

This means that hackers can find a way to either disrupt (and essentially crash) a user's entire interface or, even worse, install software that will give the hackers access to the same interface, including personal data.

The issue is part of a larger type of crime called "juice jacking," which the Federal Communications Commission has warned consumers about since 2021.

"Cybersecurity experts have warned that criminals can load malware onto public USB charging stations to maliciously access electronic devices while they are being charged," the FCC warned. "Malware installed through a dirty USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors."

The agency also noted that sometimes hackers will give cables as promotional gifts as a way to trick consumers into using the charging cords.

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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