Why you should NEVER charge your smartphone at a hotel or airport
Hurry up and wait, as they say…. and after battling to the airport, through check-in and security, that’s precisely what millions of travellers do every single day.
Hours of mindless scrolling to pass the time in the queues, your trusty mobile that has pumped out pictures and videos to keep you occupied now needs a well-earned recharge.
And the bright lights of the airport lounge at the end of the tunnel are the ideal place to slot in your phone for its much-needed refresh while you take refuge nearby – keeping a watchful eye on the USB socket like a protective parent at a playground.
But not so fast. Your phone’s hour of need could be exactly what dastardly hackers have been waiting for.
The FBI has issued a warning against using public USB charging stations to prevent the transmission of viruses and malware
While a USB charging point at an airport or hotel might seem innocent, the FBI has now issued a warning to all smartphone users to avoid using them as hackers have figured out a way to load them up with viruses.
The United States intelligence and security service put out the message via its official Denver twitter account.
It stated: ‘Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices.’
The tweet then advised people to always carry your own charger and USB cord to plug into an electrical outlet instead.
The practice – known as ‘juice jacking’ – was previously warned against by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office as they reported signs of fraudsters accessing a person’s phone or tablet.
Once your phone is plugged into the USB port hackers can send malware programs from their own phones or laptops into the charging station hardware.
This could then lead to your phone being locked or disabled and your private data could be compromised.
It essentially means that the charging stations became a distribution hub for viruses.
The FCC has also warned about this practice in the past, claiming cybercriminals leave infected USB cables plugged into ports in the hope that somebody might use them.
If you do happen to plug in your phone to a USB charging port, make sure you do not agree to share your data when prompted via a pop up.
Potentially dangerous public USB ports can be commonly found in airports, hotels or on trains
By choosing the ‘charging only’ option this will at least make sure you are not handing over sensitive information.
Other ways to protect yourself from becoming a ‘juice jacking’ victim is to never plug your device into a cable that has already been left there.
Also, be careful when using public WiFi networks in an airport and around busy areas as this is another way you can get hacked by cybercriminals.