Traveling this holiday season? No doubt you'll have your cell phone or other portable device, and you'll need to re-charge it at some point.
If your battery is running low, be aware that juicing up your electronic device at free USB port charging stations, such as those found near airport gates, in hotels and other travel-friendly locations, could have unfortunate consequences. You could become a victim of "juice jacking," a new cyber-theft tactic.
According to this alert from the Los Angeles County District Attorney, criminals are loading malware onto public USB charging stations to maliciously access electronic devices while they are being charged. The alert describes how 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.
In some cases, criminals have left cables plugged in at the stations. Fraudsters may even give you infected cables as a promotional gift, according to a recent New York Times story.
Don't let a free USB charge wind up draining your bank account. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a juice jacking victim:
- Avoid using a USB charging station. Use an AC power outlet instead.
- Bring AC, car chargers, and your own USB cables with you when travelling.
- Carry a portable charger or external battery.
- Consider carrying a charging-only cable, which prevents data from sending or receiving while charging, from a trusted supplier.
Public WiFi networks are another way that cyber criminals target travelers. To learn more about mobile phone and online security, check out the FCC consumer guide: Wireless Connections and Bluetooth Security Tips.