Juice Jacking: How cyber thieves hack cell phones through public charging stations

Ready to travel this holiday weekend? Heed this big warning before you charge your phone on the go: cybercriminals can hack your phone through some public charging stations.

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You're in an airport, hotel, or restaurant, desperately needing to recharge your cell phone. You plug it into a public USB charging station, but you may have plugged it right into the hands of a hacker.

"I see a lot of people at those charging stations that are completely unaware," said Ken Smiley, an Executive Vice President with Amegy Bank, speaking out to warn consumers about the problem.


It's called "juice jacking," where a cyber thief can either hack into the charging system or download malware or a virus that is then downloaded through the USB port onto your phone while it's charging.

"When you plug in your phone or laptop, or iPad, or any other type of tablet, it can download malware onto your phone," explained Smiley.

Now the hacker can steal your personal information or passwords, or get into your bank account, or credit cards stored on the phone.

"It’s really a problem," he said. "And nobody knows about it." 

Some criminals even hand out infected cables as a promotional gift. To protect yourself, bring your own wall outlet phone charger and plug it into a wall outlet instead.  

"Use a wall outlet. Some people don’t use the cube or AC adapter, find that and bring that," said Smiley.


You can carry your own cell phone charger or external battery, or you can block the transfer of data using a USB cable designed for charging only, or a USB data blocker.

One more warning from the Federal Trade Commission: hackers also target travelers through public Wi-Fi networks.