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Juice-Jacking, a Concern for Event Planners

Skift Take

Juice-jacking, a cyberattack where hackers steal personal information from devices while charging in public places, is a genuine concern. Explore how you can help keep your attendees' data safe.

An increasingly popular scam involves information theft as an unsuspecting victim charges a phone. Known as “juice jacking,” it has become so bad that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued a warning.

The FBI recommends against using free charging stations in airports, hotels, and even convention centers. What scammers do is install malware and monitoring software onto the charging devices. An unsuspecting person will charge their phone in that USB port, not knowing that, at the same time, their data is being transferred and stolen. Passwords, credit card information, addresses, names, and more will be in the hands of unscrupulous individuals who can use that information to access your accounts.

Event planners are taking note. The recommendation is to avoid plugging devices into public charging stations. One solution is to use charge-only cables. Portable chargers and external batteries are also safer alternatives.

Juice jacking attacks can be challenging to detect. If your device is compromised, you may notice some suspicious activity, but this isn’t always the case, according to NordVPN, a virtual private network service provider.

For example, you may notice something you don’t recognize on your phone — like purchases you didn’t make or calls that look suspicious.

Your phone may also start working unusually slowly or feel hotter than usual. Chances are you may have picked up malware. 

Power banks are a safe and convenient way to charge your device on the go without having to use a public charging station. 

USB Data Blockers Can Help

USB data blockers are gaining popularity as they protect your phone from juice jacking when using a public charging station. You plug the device into the charging port on your phone, which acts as a shield between the public charging station’s cord and your device.

“We can all relate. You are running to a meeting or convention, and your phone runs out of juice. If you are about to plug in at the airport or train station, beware. Plugging in can be hazardous,” said Barbara Schwasnick, senior swag specialist of Creative Solutions. “A USB data blocker can help. It allows charging without the risk of uploading viruses and is a great promotional product.” Another popular brand is the Juice-Jack Defenders, which protects against identity theft and malware.

Juice-jacking attacks only affect devices connected directly to USB ports. If you need to charge your phone in public, use your own charger with a power outlet instead. This is typically a safe way to charge your devices in public.

If you do plug your device into a USB port and a prompt appears asking you to select “share data,” “trust this computer,” or “charge only,” always choose “charge only,” recommends the Federal Communications Commission. 

This and many more event-related scams should be on your radar.