Experts warn of ‘juice jacking’ when charging cellphones at airports


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With the holiday travel season right around the corner, cybersecurity experts have a warning if you’re headed to the airport — you might want to make sure your phone is charged and not depend on a public charging station.

The warning comes because there’s a new scam known as “juice jacking” –it’s where hackers secretly modify the USB ports to install viruses on your device.

The warning first originated with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and has resonated around the country very quickly.

IT experts say a cellphone can get hacked just by plugging a cord into any public USB port charger that has become infected with malware.

From making calls to texting, to going online, cellphones are a 21st-century necessity.

And when the battery runs low while you’re out or traveling most of us head to the nearest public charging station with USB ports.

But doing that can put you at risk.

IT security experts CBS 17 spoke with say hackers can steal personal data from a phone via “juice jacking.”

And it could happen not just at airports, but at hotels, cafes, even theme parks.

“When you open some of these technologies for public use, you also open them to public misuse,” explained J. Colin Petersen, the CEO of JIT Outsource.

IT experts say the method is similar to the ATM and gas station skimmer devices. In this case, hackers manipulate public USB ports allowing them to steal data, text messages, emails, photos and more.

“You get fooled into plugging your phone into them, therefore you open yourself up to vulnerabilities that exist,” said Petersen.

So how can you prevent this?

It’s simple. Skip the public charging stations and plug your own charger right into the wall.

IT security experts also say it’s good to bring along an extra battery pack for your cellphone, or purchase a USB port defender or “juice jack” defender.

We found a number of them online.

The defender works because it doesn’t have the data pins used in regular chargers — it only pulls down electricity.

RDU officials say the airport hasn’t had any reports of Juice Jacking there. But remember, these scammers are mobile and like to move around the country, so take precautions now.

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