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Officials warn of 'juice jacking' data theft

Jan 23, 2024

The New York Department of State's Division of Consumer Protection is warning New Yorkers of a potential scam called "juice jacking," where thieves place hidden skimming units inside USB ports of cellphone charging kiosks at airports, hotels and other public spaces to steal data.

"Summer is peak travel season when New Yorkers are constantly on the go heading to events, gatherings and vacations with friends and family," Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said in a media release. "Unfortunately, nefarious scammers are always at work finding new ways to target unsuspecting consumers and steal their personal information. If you need to charge your phone or any device while traveling, it's important to pay attention to how and where you charge these items to protect yourself from falling victim to a potential ‘juice jacking’ scam."

The FBI and the Federal Communications Commission have issued warnings about the juice jacking scam. The FCC has a dedicated webpage warning that malware installed through a corrupted USB port can lock a device or export personal data and passwords directly to a skimming perpetrator. "Before using a public phone charger, consumers should understand how hackers can potentially steal data through these kiosks and that any device that requires charging via USB is vulnerable, including tablets, smart watches and laptops," the release said.

To prevent juice jacking:

• Carry a portable battery charger and your own charging cables.

• Use the wall plug-in socket to charge your devices.

• If you plug your device into a USB port and a prompt appears asking you to "share data," "trust this computer" or "charge only," always select "charge only."

• If you need to charge your device through a USB port, consider a USB device called a data blocker that connects to your phone's charging cable and keeps data from being transmitted through the USB cord.

• If you must use a public charging station, power off your device before plugging it into the charging port.

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