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⚠️ FBI Alert: Avoid charging at airports or stations!

Pirates, it has happened to all of us: we arrive at the airport perhaps in the late afternoon or evening, when our smartphone has already died, and we are glad to find charging hot spots that save us from our own from our overflowing backpack.

According to an alert issued by the FBI (but valid for all airports and stations around the world), however, we may risk paying dearly for this convenience.

If we do not take proper precautions, we expose smartphones or laptops at public charging points to the theft of our sensitive personal data, photos, and videos.

Find out below the details of so-called juice jacking and how to defend ourselves.

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Public charging points at airports and stations: How to guard against juice jacking

The warning released via the FBI's social channels serves to warn travelers about so-called juice jacking, explaining the dangers behind this seemingly harmless activity and how to defend ourselves from personal data theft.

Public charging columns and stations, especially in airports and stations but also in shopping malls and hotels, could, in fact, allow our mobile devices (smartphones and laptops) to be accessed by cybercriminals who could steal our data, as well as saved photos and videos or even install malware.

To avoid this danger, the FBI recommends that we always use our own charger and not the thick cable that comes with the chargers, as the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has already indicated, because the "public" cables may have been modified so that any malware could be installed directly into the devices.

What is 'Juice Jacking'

This activity has the name juice jacking, an umbrella term that encompasses all those cyber attacks that can be perpetrated through a charging port, usually USB, that also has the function of a data connection. There are five connectors in a USB socket of which only one is for charging, and the others are for data transfer.

Typically this means the installation of malware that can then be activated later (and, for example, steal our banking access data) or even copying personal data contained in smartphones, tablets, or laptops.

One of the possible uses is even that of "crypto miner" malware, software that instead of stealing data from us, "mines" cryptocurrencies using much of the power of our portable computer for the use and consumption of cybercriminals. But of course, the possibilities are countless, from spyware to Trojans to various ransomware that "seize" the data contained on our devices through encryption, then demand some sort of "ransom" to regain access to our data.

What to do to minimise the risk

According to the FBI, which collects on a special page all the advice on how to defend ourselves, the best thing to do is to use our charger or even better, a personal power bank.

Some systems isolate the USB charging connector from those carrying data, such as cables that directly disable the data connectors, or "USB Condom" or "USB Data Blocker" devices that perform the same function.

The FBI's advice also includes prevention tips such as frequently changing sensitive passwords, having and keeping up-to-date antivirus software, and not performing sensitive transactions such as online shopping or logging into bank accounts or credit cards (but also VPNs used for work) when connected on a public charging network.

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