FBI Warns Against Using Public USB Ports Due to Malware Risk
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) last week warned users to stay away from public USB ports due to malware risks. On Twitter, the Denver FBI office (via CNBC) said that public charging stations in hotels, airports, and shopping centers can be a malware attack vector.
Bad actors have learned to use public USB ports to "introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices," the FBI said. When out in public, users should bring their own charger and USB cord, using an electrical outlet for charging purposes instead of a public USB port.
Apple's iPhones and Macs have a USB security feature that prevents the Lightning port from being used for data transfer purposes when it has been more than an hour since the device was unlocked, but this does not prevent malware installation if you are actively using your device and connect to a public port.
Avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers. Bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices. Carry your own charger and USB cord and use an electrical outlet instead. pic.twitter.com/9T62SYen9T — FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) April 6, 2023
If a public USB port is used to transfer malware to a computer, tablet, or smartphone, hackers can gain access to sensitive data on the device, siphoning usernames and passwords, hijacking email, stealing money from online accounts, and more.
The only way to stay safe is to use your own USB cable to charge in public spaces, which effectively prevents this potential method of attack.
The FBI has a similar warning on its website, noting that people should not use free charging stations. The FBI also warns against using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions, opening suspicious documents, using the same password for all accounts, and clicking unsolicited links in text messages and emails.