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Planning to travel? No doubt you'll have your cell phone or another 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 in airports and hotel lobbies, might have unfortunate consequences. You could become a victim of "juice jacking," yet another cyber-theft tactic.

Cybersecurity experts warn that bad actors can load malware onto public USB charging stations to maliciously access electronic devices while they are being charged. Malware installed through a corrupted USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to the perpetrator. Criminals can then use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors.

Although "juice jacking" has been demonstrated to be technically possible as a proof of concept, the FCC is not aware of any confirmed instances of it occurring.

Here are some tips to guard against "juice jacking:"

  • Using AC power outlets can help you avoid any potential risks, so be sure to pack AC, car chargers, and your own USB cables with you when traveling.
  • Carry an external battery.
  • Consider carrying a charging-only cable, which prevents data from sending or receiving while charging, from a trusted supplier.
  • If you plug your device into a USB port and a prompt appears asking you to select "share data" or “trust this computer” or “charge only,” always select “charge only.”

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.