As 2020 begins, many people find themselves traveling home from holiday gatherings. The United States Federal Communications Commission recently issued a warning for people who anticipate using cell phones during long trips. The agency urges everyone to exercise caution this year re-charging mobile devices in unfamiliar locations.

A New Type of Cyber Crime

As a firm actively providing skilled cell phone repair services, LifeLine Your Tech Team closely tracks warnings concerning potential phone problems. The recent FCC posting reiterated an alert issued by the Los Angeles County District Attorney in late 2019. It concerns a malicious practice known as “Juice Jacking”.

Most users of mobile technology accept the fact high tech gadgets with batteries require periodic re-charging. As a public service, many airports, hotels, restaurants, libraries, educational institutions, and other entities supply public USB re-charging ports for this purpose. While most sites furnish safe services, according to the Los Angeles DA’s Office, cyber criminals have reportedly tampered with some re-charging stations recently.

About “Juice Jacking”

Re-charging your cell phone or laptop at an insecure public USB port might enable a cyber criminal to download malicious programs (called “malware”) onto your portable devices. Some types of malware surreptitiously collect information. These illegal programs then send sensitive data (like passwords and account numbers) to identity thieves. Unsuspecting phone owners may discover they subsequently become the victims of long distance fraud schemes.

For this reason, the FCC recommends against utilizing free USB charging ports. The agency urges travelers to only rely upon standard AC power outlets for device recharging purposes. Additionally, mobile tech owners should carry along their own manufacturer-specified external battery or portable charging equipment. This practice helps reduce risks from USB re-charging stations that have undergone surreptitious tampering. It may prove helpful to invest in your own portable charger for use during emergencies.

Exercise Good Judgment

While public re-charging stations offer convenience, these sites don’t necessarily furnish dependable security. In the past, cyber criminals have actually installed malicious hardware devices inside some public charging stations. Site owners need to check these locations frequently.

Experts caution travelers against using USB cables forgotten by other visitors. In some cases, identity thieves reportedly intentionally leave peripheral devices at public charging stations with the expectation that unwary travelers will use them and unwittingly upload malicious code onto their mobile devices. Some fraudsters modify USB cables to transmit malware.