FBI warning people not to use public charging stations to charge your phone

BOSTON — The FBI is warning people to not use public phone charging stations because hackers have found a way to introduce malware through the stations.

In a tweet on Thursday, the FBI’s Denver branch urged Americans to “avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels, or shopping centers.”

“Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead.”

The most common charging stations are seen in places like airports and shopping centers.

The FBI is not the only agency that has issued a warning about “juice jacking,” which is where a hacker uses public charging ports to steal things such as credit card numbers or install malware on a user’s device.

“So what the cyber criminals are doing is when you take your USB and you charge it in one of those community charging stations, they’re able to put malware, which is a way for them to steal your data, so they basically put a little program in there, they collect as much data as they can in that period of time that you’re plugged in,” said Brian Hale, managing director at FTI Cybersecurity.

Hale spent years in the FBI and says criminals are now using these charging stations to steal personal information like your credit card off your phone.

“It would really be terrible to get a call from my bank or some other organization saying they have my information and I really don’t have an alternative because I have to charge my phone, I have all my stuff on there, so I’d say it’s pretty scary,” said Rodney Lafuente, a traveler at Logan Airport.

Experts say there are ways to avoid getting hacked.

“Make sure you have your phone charged up before you take a trip or before you go to the ball game at Fenway, make sure you have your regular old wall charger that you can use, have an extra battery with you – even if you’re traveling, remember your laptop can also be a way to charge your phone,” said Hale.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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