The FBI has issued a warning to travelers that public phone charging stations may not be safe to use. The Bureau warns that bad actors have figured out a way to use those charging stations to steal information from connected phones as well as how to install malware onto the phones.
While the FBI did not give specifics or say there have been reported incidents, it does say it’s possible. There’s even a name for this action: “Juice Jacking”.
It’s certainly possible but fortunately, Apple has safety measures in place to warn iPhone and iPad users that the information on the device is at risk.
If you plug a phone or tablet into a charger using a USB cable you may see a warning or prompt on the screen asking if you “Trust this computer”. If you see that warning, you aren’t plugging the phone into a charger but a computer or device that can access and transfer data.
If you’re using a free charging station in an airport, train station, hotel, or library and see that warning you should tap “Do Not Trust” and quickly unplug the phone.
Android phones I’ve tried do not have that safety measure.
If you’re traveling your phone or device is likely going to need charging so what are your options other than a free charging station?
Carry along your own charging block and plug it into an electrical outlet. This ensures your phone is only connected to power.
Another, and possibly better option is to pick up a portable battery charger. These are now under $20 and widely available and will charge or re-charge a phone multiple times before it needs recharging itself.