‘Juice Jacking’ Scam Makes Public USB Chargers Risky

November 21, 2019

Security experts are issuing a warning to those who use USB chargers at airports, hotels, and other locations to power up electronic devices. You could be putting your personal data at risk.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office posted a scam alert at its site, warning that hackers can use USB power charging stations to put malware onto unsuspecting consumers’ devices. The scam is called “juice jacking.”

Criminals load malware onto charging stations or cables they leave plugged in at USB stations. Once a consumer plugs their device into a USB port to one of those corrupt ports, their phone or other electronic device can be infected with the malware. The malware may lock the device or export data and passwords directly to the scammer. This could expose personal passwords or bank accounts or lock up gadgets and make them unusable.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office urged consumers to use AC power outlets, not a USB charging station. They also recommended taking AC and car chargers to charge devices when traveling and to consider buying portable chargers for emergencies. Also, security experts say you can buy attachable protective devices on USB cables, which can essentially disable the data pin on the USB charger. The device will charge but the cable will be unable to send or receive data. Cables with that feature built in, referred to as charging cables, are also available.