The FBI’s Denver branch has cautioned consumers against using public phone charging stations to prevent their devices from exposure to malware and monitoring software. Although the agency did not provide specific examples, it revealed that public USB stations, commonly found at places like malls and airports, are being utilised by malicious actors to distribute malware. The FBI advised people to carry their own charger and USB cord and opt for electrical outlets instead.

Security experts have long expressed concerns about the security risks associated with public charging stations. In 2011, the term “juice jacking” was coined to describe this problem. Plugging a device into a compromised power strip or charger can result in the device becoming infected, potentially compromising all stored data, including emails, text messages, photos, and contacts.

The charging cord not only replenishes a device’s battery but also enables data transfer between devices. Therefore, if a charging port is compromised, hackers can access sensitive information. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also updated a blog post, emphasising that a corrupted charging port can lead to a device being locked or personal data and passwords being extracted. The FCC warned that some criminals have intentionally left infected cables at charging stations, and there have been reports of infected cables being distributed as promotional gifts. The FBI and FCC advise consumers to prioritise their device security and exercise caution when charging in public places.