July 16, 2024

Juice Jacking: The FBI warns about public cell phone charging stations

Juice Jacking: The FBI warns about public cell phone charging stations

Useful but also dangerous: public charging stations with USB ports.
Photo: HelloRF Zcool – shutterstock.com

For many, they are often a last resort: public cell phone charging stations at airports, train stations, trade fairs or, for example, in shopping centers. Before a smartphone runs out of power, USB charging stations seem to be the lifeblood of charging.

Warning about charging stations

But the American Journal Techradar warns Now before using it. There is a risk that criminals will use charging stations to install malware on smartphones.

The background of the article is a Tweet from FBI Denver. In it, the authority warns against using public charging stations. However, the method of attack that the FBI is now warning about is not new.

Danger of juice withdrawal

FBI warns Denver of juice theft on Twitter.
Photo: Twitter/FBI screenshot

The security expert has been warning since 2011 Brian Krebs before the so-calledJacking juiceWith this method, attackers use a USB charging cable to upload malicious code to the cell phone unnoticed.

The danger either lies directly in the USB port of the charging station, which may have been tampered with. Or the attackers directly modified the charging cable for their own criminal purposes.

Download and data pins

A risk also exists with more modern connections like USB-C, USB 3, or Lightning. Because their sockets usually have pins for both power and data transmission.

When a smartphone is connected to a dedicated charger, only the charging pins are used. Conversely, if a USB carrier or hacked cable is used, the data pins can also be used.

USB data blockers are a way to reduce the risk of juice breakage.
Image: Amazon screenshot

The malware can then be uploaded directly to the smartphone via this unwanted data connection. After a successful infection, hackers can connect to a cell phone to track keystrokes or steal passwords and personal data.

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How to protect yourself

The remedy is as simple as it is trivial: The FBI recommends simply using a USB cable and charger. In addition, electrical sockets should be used instead of the general USB charging ports.

The other method is to use pure USB charging cables, where only the charging pins are connected. Or the user uses the so-called Data blockers. These are USB adapters where only the charging pins are activated.