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HomeBusinessWhy Have FBI and FCC Warned Against Using Public Charging Stations to...

Why Have FBI and FCC Warned Against Using Public Charging Stations to Replenish Phone Battery

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Wikimedia Tomwsulcer-At Newark Airport in New Jersey, there is a charging station for customers to charge their portable electronic devices.

The use of public phone charging stations, which are increasingly common in locations like airports and shopping centers, is being discouraged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The issue, according to the FBI, is that hackers have discovered a way to infect devices with malware and other software through these public charging stations.

The FBI’s Denver field office tweeted that people should avoid using free charging stations available in public places such as hotels, shopping centers, or airports. It advised that bad actors have discovered ways to infect devices with malware and monitoring software using open USB ports. Bringing one’s own USB cable and charger had been advised.

On its website, the FBI provides similar advice on how to stay away from public charging. The advisory made no mention of any recent cases of juice jacking harming consumers, and the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for information on what had led to the Denver office’s reminder. The advice the agency provides on its website is mirrored in the social media alert.

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In addition to the FBI, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also issues a warning against the use of USB charging stations in common places. It claims that malware can be loaded into USB ports by hackers, giving them the capacity to “maliciously” access machines. The police refer to it as ‘juice jacking’, which is a new tactic or cyber theft.

The FCC issued a warning at the time that consumer devices with infected USB cables may be taken over by software that would then steal usernames and passwords. Consumers were advised by the commission to stay away from those public stations and save themselves from becoming victims of juice jacking.

FBI officials cautioned that using charging portals that have been deployed by hotel owners and store managers might also result in the download of malware and unwanted spying software onto computers, phones, and devices.

The FCC issues this warning because spyware of this type can allow thieves access to usernames and passwords, which they can in turn use or sell to other parties. Discouraging users from USB charging stations, the FCC advises users to carry a portable charger, use an AC power outlet, or purchase a ‘charging-only’ cable because the latter does not permit data transfer while in use.

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