FBI recommends avoiding free charging stations in airports, hotels, or shopping centers, as it may put your security at risk.
Recently on Twitter, the FBI cautioned that, “Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices.”
Imagine you arrive at the airport or train station and realize that your battery is almost exhausted after your long phone call in your Uber. You don’t want to spend 2 hours on the plane without your phone. You look for a power source. There you see it – a cherished USB charging station! So simple and convenient. There’s a cable, a bench to sit on, and a desktop to multitask (e.g., make a call, check SM, binge on the latest season of Succession, relax). You’re in a rush to catch a plane or make a client call. Perhaps, your cable is tangled, frayed, or buried in your bag. You think I’ll just use this one right there!
Not so fast, choose to be security smart!
Why is a public charging station dangerous to my phone?
We use USB cables and flash drives so frequently that we forget that these innocent conveniences offer hackers one of the easiest entry points into our digital worlds. Malware installed through a dirty USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to a perpetrator. Criminals often exploit our human desire for convenience and freebies by leaving “extra” cables plugged in at the stations or sharing promotional flash drives. It’s tempting and hackers know it.
Don’t be tempted. Avoid public charging stations to protect yourself.
What you can do to protect yourself if your battery is low:
- Bring your own charger, dig it out, and use it.
- Find and use an electrical outlet instead.
- Purchase an emergency power bank to keep in your bag.
- Buy an extra charging cable and leave it in your carry-on.
- Don’t put a cable or flash drive into your phone or computer unless you know it is safe.
LEARN MORE ABOUT PROTECTING YOURSELF: Cybersecurity