MUNDANE MYSTERIES: It Okay To Use A Public Charging Station?

It’s a simple question:  when is it okay to use a public charging port to power your cellphone or laptop? 

The answer is also simple, but more scarily frustrating:  never!

Imagine: you’re sitting at the airport, waiting for your departure…and your phone’s about to die. But wait…there’s an empty USB port at a charging station nearby! Well, that might seem like a gift from heaven, but those public ports can actually give you a lot more than a charge for your nearly dead phone.

The FBI is now warning everyone to “avoid using free charging stations”, as hackers have “figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware & monitoring software onto devices.” And the FBI isn’t the only agency warning about what’s called “juice jacking.” The Federal Communications Commission’s website also has a warning about juice jacking, explaining what is & how to avoid it. According to the FCC, “Malware installed through a corrupted USB port can lock a device or export personal data & passwords directly to the perpetrator. Then, criminals can use that information to access online accounts or sell it to other bad actors.” And when you really think about just how much personal information we all store on our phones nowadays, that type of invisible theft could do some real damage.

So, what’s the owner of a dying phone or laptop to do? Well, the #1 way to ensure juice jacking doesn’t happen to you is: never use a public USB charging station. Always be sure you have a wall adapter for your USB cable, so you can plug your charger directly into an available power outlet. Also, you could invest in a portable charger to keep with you for those unexpected instances when your battery’s drained but there’s no power outlet available to plug into. You could also pick up a “charging-only” USB cable, which doesn’t include built-in data transfer wires. And never plug your phone into a USB cable someone else has left at a charging station. Sure, it could be harmless…but do you really want to risk it?

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me an email: [email protected].

BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Berryville Graphics