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FBI warns people to stop using public USB chargers, but how common is juice jacking? | FOX43 Finds Out

The FBI tweeted a warning about using public USB chargers to charge cell phones, but experts say the chances of being so-called "juice-jacked" are pretty low.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — USB ports are pretty common at hotels, airports, and a lot of other public places.

Warnings about what's called juice jacking may have you rethinking before you plug in.

Here's how it works: someone could load or place malware directly onto the charging station or infect a connection cable, something you likely wouldn't be able to see. Then when you plug in, your device is infected and a hacker could get the personal information you keep on your phone. 

Dr. Bruce Young is a cybersecurity expert at Harrisburg University. Young said juice jacking can happen, but he hasn't heard of any recent cases.

"If these charging stations are being offered in public places, there should be some ownership to make sure that they're secured and not being misused."

FOX43 Finds Out also reached out to our local FBI office to see if there have been reports of juice jacking in our area and they've seen none so far. Most phones do try to prevent something like this.

If you try to plug into something new, you may get a notification asking if you trust this computer.

"As a user, it's good to be aware of what vulnerabilities exist," said Young.

Even though it's not widespread now, Young says typically when agencies put out warnings like this, cases tend to increase.

"Once it makes the news, it's just something that you should certainly be aware of because people are going to want to copycat that," said Young.

The moral of the story, it's not a major concern right now, but it still can happen.

Since it is an easy fix to just bring this with you or have your own portable charging pack, it might be best to avoid those public chargers.

If you have a story you want Jackie De Tore to look into, FOX43 wants to find out. Send her a message on Facebook or send an email to FOX43FindsOut@FOX43.com.

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