Are Airport Chargers Safe? Travel Vlogger Warns to Not Use Charging Stations

Mustafa Gatollari - Author
By

Feb. 3 2024, Published 8:50 a.m. ET

Travel Vlogger Airport Charging Stations Warning
Source: TikTok | @travelpiratesus

A TikToker is warning folks against the dangers of using USB charging port slots while commuting at airports, citing a warning from the FBI about the potential dangers of using these slots, which could subject travelers to "juice jacking" a phenomenon that sees their data stolen from these ports that have either been installed or compromised by scammers/hackers.

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The post, which was uploaded by @travelpiratesus, features a woman in the clip who delineates the dangers behind airport USB slot charging, along with the recommended solution from the FBI to prevent your information for potentially being stolen during your travels.

A text overlay is prominently displayed on the overlay of her video which reads: "The FBI has issued a warning about airport charging stations!!"

She then delves into why folks should avoid charging their devices in the USB ports often found at airports, including lodged into furniture and wall sockets/outlets.

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Source: TikTok | @travelpiratesus

"So that right there, no, do not touch those, do not put your phone in those, do not charge your phone there, you will regret it," she says in the video.

"So the FBI has put out a warning about all the charging stations...so it's called juice jacking and cybercriminals use USB ports and airports and stations to steal your data. Fun, right?"

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So what should someone do if they want to make sure they're getting juice while on the go? She suggests carrying an external battery pack with you: "Stay safe and use battery packs instead of the charging stations just like the FBI recommends."

However, there were some folks who questioned whether or not their devices would be susceptible to these USB charger port exploits: "dont iphones disable all file transfer until requested and agreed by the user?" one person wrote.

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warning charging phones usb port airports
Source: TikTok | @travelpiratesus

Someone else wondered if there was a way to circumvent this type of FBI-warned hackery: "what if you turn your phone off before plugging it in?"

Another asked: "But is it just the usb ports? Would you be fine if you just used your regular charger with the wall adapter?"

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While another said that they were already privy to this information thanks to Korean dramas.

The woman in @travelpirates' video wasn't just telling tall tales about the FBI's messaging when it comes to free USB charging stations at airports, either.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation wrote on its X (formerly Twitter) account: "Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead."

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Source: Twitter | @FBIDenver

ABC News also spoke with Javed Ali, who was the former senior director for counter terrorism at the NSA, said that the Bureau's decision to release the tweet was probably: "informed by an FBI-driven investigation or other intelligence that has now been approved for public release."

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However, the FBI wasn't the only agency warning folks about the dangers of airport USB charging, the FCC also penned a lengthy piece on "juice jacking" and the best ways folks can go ahead on how "to avoid it."

The commission, just like the TikToker and the FBI, suggested carrying external power banks, but also said that regular AC power outlets were fine to use and there was yet another suggestion that wasn't mentioned: purchasing charging only cables for your mobile devices.

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warning charging phones usb port airports
Source: TikTok | @travelpiratesus

Not all cables for your smartphones/tablets/computers are meant for data transfers, and there are even specific modes one can select on their smartphone to "charge only" when it is plugged into a USB device.

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warning charging phones usb port airports
Source: TikTok | @travelpiratesus

Another solution is to buy USB data "blocking" cable attachments, which retail for $10 for a three pack on Amazon. You can use these attachments with a variety of USB-A cords so you won't have to worry about the types of cables that you're carrying around.

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