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The Dangers of ‘Juice Jacking’ and Why All Travelers Need To Know About It

Public phone connections and outlets found at airports can do more harm than good if you aren’t careful.

Earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reminded consumers of the dangers surrounding the use of public charging stations. In this warning, they called out charging stations at malls and airports. But what makes them unsafe to use? According to the alert, public stations make users susceptible to malware. It is known as “juice jacking” and comes with some dire risks.

The Dangers of Juice Jacking

Between arriving early to get through security, the hassles of layovers, plus delayed or canceled flights upending plans, it is virtually impossible for devices to remain charged for a full day’s travel. As a result, airports have installed stand-alone charging stations embedded into seats and tables. Charged-up devices keep you up-to-date on airline notifications, weather alerts, entertainment, and more during a travel day. Before plugging in, you want to be sure you are not connecting your devices (smartphone, laptop, or other device) to pre-existing public USB charging ports or cables.

When you recharge your devices at the free USB port charging stations, you could become a victim of cyber theft. Plugging your boxes or cords into electrical outlets is relatively safe, but using the public USB ports is a huge dice roll. Malware installed via a corrupted USB port or cable like the ones found at public charging stations can give hackers access to personal data, passwords, and photos. It can even lock your device. With this information, hackers can get into banking accounts, commit identity theft, or sell your personal information to other hackers. The fallout from any of these actions is a nightmare to undo.

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There are several ways you can protect yourself against juice jacking and other malicious cyber theft attempts. The best deterrent to juice jacking is to bring along charging cables and blocks. Using your personal gadgets drastically reduces the risk of having your devices corrupted. The second best method is to use a USB condom or a data blocker. These gadgets are a barrier between your devices and public USB charging ports. The barrier prevents infectious malware from being installed on your smartphones or computers.

Another great option is the use of external battery packs or portable chargers. Selecting one is dependent on your specific travel charging needs. For charging multiple electronics or a Macbook, consider something like the Zendure Supertank Pro or the Nimble Champ Pro. You can also think about the Anker Nano Power Bank, Magnetic Battery Pac, or Wireless Power Bank that can charge your phone, headphones, or smartwatches.

How Safe Are Public Wi-Fi Connections at Airports?

Much like using public charging stations, connecting to public Wi-Fi poses its own set of dangers to unsuspecting users. For people on the go, the ability to connect to the nearest Wi-Fi keeps them moving and on top of tasks when they are away from home. While public Wi-Fi is available at nearly every venue, it comes with security risks. Without considering the dangers of not safeguarding our personal information, we often connect to the first available internet provider. Mindlessly, we have entered a password to our bank account or typed identifying information when connected to a public Wi-Fi service. And likely without heeding the “unsecured connection” advisory that pops up.

Although staying connected on the go is crucial, it is equally important to understand the dangers of public Wi-Fi and take precautions to protect your personal information. Truthfully, when we utilize public Wi-Fi, we are susceptible to hackers who can access our most sensitive and vulnerable personal details. One of the best safety measures is using encryption offered by a secured network. You can also use a VPN or virtual private network when connecting to a public provider.

A VPN encrypts all the data between your device(s) and the router. Encryption makes it harder for a hacker to gain access to your data. There are several VPN subscription services like Express VPN or Nord VPN. You can also use a portable hotspot for a personal, private, and secure internet connection when you are on the go.

When connected to public Wi-Fi, it is also wise to avoid websites where you may be required to enter personal information such as your credit card numbers, banking details, or passwords. For an additional layer of security, you can also use the biometric features of your device(s) to avoid physically entering this information if you must access it publicly.