Michael F. Strong

Beware – Public Charging Stations Are Stealing Your Info

Just as the Holidays are upon us, now there is something else besides crowds, flight delays and possible terrorist attacks while we travel through airports – “juice jacking.”

What is juice jacking? You know those oh so convenient public phone charging stations that are ubiquitous at airports – it turns out they may be doing a lot more than just charging your phone or tablet. They may be ripping your private information right off of your device!

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According to recent news reports, officials are warning holiday travelers to avoid using public USB charging stations at airports and other locations due to fears of a this new identity theft scam.

The problem is real, and so widespread that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office recently took to Twitter to caution anyone that may be tempted to charge their phones in public places, saying, “a free charge could end up draining your bank account.”

Tech savvy cyber criminals “load malware onto charging stations or cables they leave at the kiosk,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Luke Sisak. “Once the unsuspecting user plugs in, their phone or electronic device becomes infected.”

Sisak said that in mere minutes, your device could be locked or even taken over and used to send private and sensitive information such as bank account information and passwords, right into the hands of hackers and cyber-thieves. Sisak recommended using an AC power outlet instead of a USB charging station, to avoid potential fraud. He also said that it’s wise to travel with your own portable chargers along with your own AC adapter and cables purchased from a reliable source when on the go.

It’s easy for digital thieves to steal private information from unsuspecting consumers, especially around the holidays, due to the rise in travel and visits to shopping centers during the season.

A few months ago, a hacker was selling what looked like an ordinary iPhone lightning cable on the dark web called the “O.MG Cable.” For $200 the innocent looking USB cable was able to take control of any Mac computer or iPhone, remotely gaining access to a user’s private information. According to the hacker’s website, once the cable is plugged into a computer or phone, it can be controlled through a wireless network that is built inside the cable.

Hardware like the “O.MG Cable,” and infected USB kiosks have been regularly found in many public charging stations, but particular at airports, security officials warn. They also say this is a reason to never borrow a charging cable or device from a stranger – you may be putting your sensitive data at risk.

Are you worried about using public charging stations? Do you think you were ever a victim of “juice jacking?” Reply in the comments below.

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