FBI warns against using public phone charging stations. Here's why.

A tweet from the FBI in Denver is urging millions to think twice before taking advantage of convenient public USB charging stations, such as the ones seen in airports, hotels and shopping centers.

A tweet from the FBI in Denver.

"I used it earlier because I don’t have a portable charger on me," Ramon Diaz said.

Diaz fits the mold for thousands across the country who stop by a plug for power while they're on the go without knowledge that hackers have found a way to get malware and other software onto mobile devices through public charging stations – all in a matter of seconds.

The FBI is warning against using public phone charging stations, such as the ones seen in airports.

"The way it would be designed is that the moment you plug in, they're immediately going to start sending something," Lance Ulanoff said. "That’s what they would want to do."

Ulanoff, the U.S. editor-in-chief at TechRadar, tells FOX 5 NY hackers can drop malware onto your phone, watch your keystrokes and get your passwords, along with personal and private information.

"We don’t see this type of attack happening very much in the wild, if at all," Sherri Davidoff, the CEO of LMG Security, said. "It’s just a lot easier for attackers to hack you by sending a phishing email and getting you to click on it. They don’t really want to be sneaking around airports and installing malware on USB charging stations, so the risk is fairly low."


There’s some good news if you use LinkNYC chargers because their ports don’t necessarily gather your data. They’re "charge-only", so it would be difficult for hackers to impose a threat.

LinkNYC sent a statement, saying, in part, "They only provide power to charge devices. We follow strict security procedures and monitor all of our devices for cyber threats in real time."

Tips for users

Cybersecurity experts offered three tips for users amid the security concern:

  • If you see a charge port and notice a charge port sticking out, don’t use it.
  • If you can travel with your own charging block, do that or use a portable charger.
  • Plug directly into an outlet since they can't record any of your data.