Travellers urged to stay clear of USB charging stations at airports, hotels

Travellers have been warned to think twice when it comes to charging their phones at USB power stations in airports, hotels and other locations.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office has warned international travellers of a malicious hacking technique, dubbed "juice jacking", which transfers secret data payloads onto the victim's device via USB charging stations.

"In the USB charger scam, criminals load malware onto charging stations or cables they leave at the kiosk," said Deputy District Attorney Luke Sisak.

"Within minutes of being plugged in, the malware could lock the device or send private information like passwords, addresses or a full back-up of the phone directly to the criminal."

According to 9 News, the malware is able to monitor the phone in real time, download information from the device and clone the phone - without the owner even using it.

The department advises holidaymakers to use AC power outlets instead of USB charging stations, take their own AC and car chargers when travelling and consider purchasing a portable charger for emergencies. 

For extra protection, frequent travellers or those on-the-go can invest in 'no data transfer' USB cables, which only contains the pins needed for power.

'USB condoms' can also be purchased to provide a barrier between an untrusted USB cable and a device.

"A free charge could end up draining your bank account," said Sisak.

The warning has come at the right time as prospective travellers gear up for the holiday period.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz