Cell phones that are plugged in

Experts warn against using public charging stations for your cellphone

As technology continues to advance, so do the methods hackers use to steal personal information. One such method that even the FBI has taken notice of is juice jacking, a technique where hackers use public charging stations to install malware onto your device or steal your personal information.

The specific danger is very real, experts say.

Steve Weldon, director of the Cyber Institute at Augusta University’s School of Computer and Cyber Sciences, said people need to understand there is risk when plugging a phone into a USB port at a public charging station.

Man smiling
Steve Weldon

“USB uses pins for data and power. When we plug devices in to charge, the data pins are also connected,” said Weldon. “No big deal if we’re in an environment we trust. However, do we trust the public charging stations to have access to our data pins and being able to make data transfers? Probably not, and that’s the gist of the recent warning.”

There are ways to avoid the risk.

“The best advice is to bring your own cables and adaptors. Then we can plug directly into power outlets,” Weldon said.

If you must use a public charging station, he suggests using a data blocking USB cable. These cables only allow power to flow through, preventing any data transfer between the charging station and your device.

Also, be aware if you are using your phone while charging it.

“When using public charging stations we should, at a minimum, watch for strange behaviors, weird popups, and being asked questions about trusting the device or drive we’re connected to. Those are danger signs, and we’d want to disconnect quickly,” added Weldon.

Another option to protect your phone from juice jacking is to use a wireless charger. These chargers do not require a physical connection between your device and the charging station. While wireless charging is typically slower than using a cable, it is a safe alternative when you’re on the go and need to charge your device.

Keeping your personal information safe is crucial in today’s digital age. Protecting your phone from juice jacking is just one way to prevent hackers from accessing your sensitive data, Weldon said.

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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at kfaigle@augusta.edu.

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Avatar photo Written by Kevin Faigle

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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