I admit it: I was gonna write about this here news alert strictly on the basis of the phrase “juice jacking.” Then, I read further into what was going on and found that this is legit newsworthy, especially moving into the winter travel season and the eternity of upcoming Janbruary trade shows.
To wit: This has happened to us all… wandering around whatever goddamn hellhole Midwestern layover airport you’re stuck in for two, three, even seven hours because of delays caused by who knows what. And you’re wandering — yes, partly to keep from losing your shit on some innocent airport employee — but also because your dang phone is about to die and you are looking for a charger.
And what joy! Nowadays there’re veritable kiosks of USB chargers sprinkled liberally around most airports. Well, don’t get too excited as there’s now yet another way for assholes to screw you in your time of need.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, USB charging stations in public places — including the purgatory that is most airports — can be loaded with malware by criminals looking to steal your money, identity and more .
Here’s how the scam, known (delightfully) as “juice jacking,” works, per the Sentinel:
A computer is concealed within the charging kiosk or on cables left plugged in that are programmed to automatically pair with smartphones when they are plugged in. The rogue computer can then freely access all the information stored on electronic devices, from passwords to emails to address books to photos to text messages. It can even do a full backup of your phone, all of which can be accessed wirelessly by the crooks.
“A free charge could end up draining your bank account,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Luke Sisak in a report about juice jacking. (Nope, still not over the phrase “juice jacking.”)
— Los Angeles County District Attorney (@LADAOffice) November 8, 2019
Sisak suggested “playing it safe” by plugging into an AC power outlet with your own charging cord or using a portable charger/power bank. Adding a passcode or enabling the fingerprint scanner or face ID may also help foil an attack.
I love Sisak’s cute idea that there are conventional outlets readily available in airports or other public spaces these days, as well as the related implied idea that you somehow remembered to bring your cord and the power adapter. Maybe this is you. Or, maybe invest in a portable power bank. Anker, for instance, makes about a million different types that do everything from a single phone charge to an entire mega laptop.
Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure to be mindful of your data, always and apparently especially now if you find yourself in need of a public charge. There are literally jerks everywhere!
Erika is a sex positive people watcher (and writer). Email her at email@example.com.
Header image by Pixabay via Pexels.