I initially distrusted this bit of recent news because of how it was disseminated. Twitter still has considerable reach for widespread messaging, but it has lost any trustworthiness as far as I am concerned since being taken over by a billionaire with questionable judgement hellbent on running the platform into the ground. Doing as one should do with something this ominous tweeted by the Denver office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I performed my due diligence to confirm a tweet posted a few days ago the aforementioned office’s Twitter account warning people away from using public chargers to power their mobile devices, as “juice jacking” is apparently still a thing. This was confirmed by the FBI’s official online safety webpage: https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/safety-resources/scams-and-safety/on-the-internet
What this means for you
I say “still a thing” as the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office got enough attention focused on this in 2019 by the mainstream media for it to actually make headlines for a few days until Covid showed up to hog the limelight. Despite this juice jacking’s inexplicable resurgence in the news in 2023, there doesn’t appear to be any documented cases of this exploit actually being used “in the wild.” Public charging stations have been steadily appearing at various other public venues like malls, shopping centers, hotels and tourist attractions since at least 2011, which is when the idea of juice jacking was first presented to the public at a Defcon exhibit entitled (insultingly and pointedly) “Wall of Sheep”. The objective of this display was to demonstrate the ease of which a mobile device (like your smartphone) could be compromised when physically connecting it to something which the user had no way of knowing was safe or even provided in their best interest. Ironically, even though seems to be more FUD marketing and yet another example of why we can’t have nice things, this is still actually solid security advice. You should always think twice before connecting your device, wireless or wired, to something that you don’t control, own, or at least have some reason to trust (ie. WIFI provided by your work, a friend’s battery pack, etc.), and this definitely includes charger cables which, in case you forgot in this day and age of wireless everything, can also be a data connection cable. Be safe, bring a battery pack with you or turn on battery saving mode until you get to somewhere you can trust.
Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net