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Public USB Charging Stations Can Leave Your Phone Hacked & Your Bank Account Drained

By Stephanie Ogbogu

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Allow this to be your official warning, plugging your phone into the public USB charging stations at airports, bus stations, etc, could leave you vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

We’ve all been there — we’re in the middle of traveling and our phone has warned us that we have less than 15 minutes left of battery power before it dies. Our instinct is to locate the first conveniently placed charging station that we can find in the airport. We do, and with a sigh of relief, we plug in our phone without a second thought. However, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is sending out a warning that will have you thinking twice.

Travelers are being warned against a USB charger scam called “juice jacking.” Instead of connecting their phones to remedy their depleting batteries, travelers end up having their bank accounts and other important information drained.

How it works is by allowing hackers to load malware onto your phone via your USB connection. Tech-savvy hackers will rip out real charging ports or USB cables on public charging stations to replace with their compromised USB connections. Personal information, such as passwords, bank accounts, phone backups and more, is then shared through the infected connection without the traveler’s knowledge.

“A free charge could end up draining your bank account,” Luke Sisak, a deputy district attorney, said.

To avoid becoming a victim, travelers should avoid public charging stations and opt for A/C (wall) power outlets instead. Keeping a portable battery or two in your carry-on is also a great way to avoid the use of public charging stations. Travel + Leisure also suggests a device called a “USB Condom.” The USB Condom, which ranges in cost from $7-$12, disables the data pin on the USB, allowing you to connect to public devices while blocking any transfer of information.

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Stephanie Ogbogu

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