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FBI warns of public ‘juice jacking’ charging stations that steal your data. How to stay protected

A woman using her laptop and smartphone while waiting in an airport terminal.

Vlad Teodor/Getty Images

The next time you consider using one of those free charging stations at the airport, hotel, or shopping center, it would be in your best interest to think twice. The dangers of public USB charging stations are not new — there’s even a name tied to the act: “juice jacking,” and a product that came out of it: a USB condom But the FBI is now making it clear that you should avoid the suspiciously free power services in your local area for good.

Also: Is your iPhone charging slower? Turn off this default setting now

A recent tweet from Denver FBI advises travelers, commuters, and civilians alike to avoid using free charging stations in fear of juice jacking. That is, with few illegal modifications, criminals can introduce malware and surveillance software and steal your phone data as soon as you connect your device to an open port. 

The number one solution to the problem is to not charge your devices through a public outlet. But, in times of dire need, here are alternative ways to get your battery fixed without risking your personal information.

The first option is a portable battery bank. By serving as the middleman, an external battery can be topped up without the risk of exposing any of your data and security, and then relay that energy to your smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. 

Also: The best MagSafe battery packs we’ve tested

The second option is to charge with a USB data blocker. Like the portable battery, a USB adapter serves as a middleman between your personal device and the potentially malicious outlet. It achieves such security by doing away with the data wires traditionally found on USB cables. With the accessory attached to your charging cable, it will physically block out any data transfer between the outlet and your device. 

Most data blockers, like the one we recommend above, support adaptive charging, meaning you won’t compromise on charging speed by using one. The most important thing to remember is to not plug your device directly into public outlets that you’re wary about.

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