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FBI comes right out and says it: Don't plug your phone in at airports

Using a traditional outlet or carrying around a private power bank is by far the better option.

Published onApril 10, 2023

Google Pixel 6 Pro face down on desk next to USB-C charging cable
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • Juice jacking is on the rise.
  • This hacking method uses publicly available USB outlets to skim data from smartphones.
  • The FBI is now recommending travelers completely avoid USB outlets in airports.

If you’ve traveled recently, you’ve likely noticed plenty of free USB outlets scattered around airports. As our lives increasingly rely on smartphones and other battery-powered devices, having a place to charge up is essential — especially if you’re stuck at an airport for a few hours.

Unfortunately, using these freely available USB outlets isn’t the best idea. The reason for this is “juice jacking,” a hacking method that uses illegally altered USB outlets to skim smartphone data. Today, an official FBI Twitter account tweeted out a warning to travelers: “Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels, or shopping centers.”

While this isn’t the first time we’ve heard official government organizations warn about juice jacking, this is the first time we’ve heard any of them say we should avoid public USB outlets altogether.

Generally, you’re most at risk of getting “jacked” from a provided USB cable, i.e., a station with multiple cables you can directly connect to. However, hackers can also compromise traditional USB outlets (i.e., one in which you provide your own cable), so you should try to avoid them as well.

The best way to avoid juice jacking is to simply not use public USB outlets. If you need a top-up, plug directly into a traditional outlet using your own wall adapter, use a portable power bank, or hold off as long as possible until you’re near an outlet you can trust.

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