The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned iPhone and Mac owners not to use publicly available and free USB chargers over concerns that they could be used as a distribution method for malware and monitoring software.
The warning came via a post to Twitter in which the FBI instead urged device owners to use their own charger and USB cable rather than rely on those that are offered by others.
In the case of the iPhone Apple doesn’t ship a charger with the device anymore, although it does at least put a USB-C to Lightning cable in the box. But even the best iPhone money can buy will require you to pick up your own charger, although Apple does offer one for sale separately.
Use an electrical outlet instead
The FBI’s warning says that people should “avoid using free charging stations in airports, hotels or shopping centers,” going on to say that “bad actors have figured out ways to use public USB ports to introduce malware and monitoring software onto devices.”
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/9T62SYen9TApril 6, 2023
The tweet, which was first spotted by CNBC (opens in new tab), suggests that people should use known-safe cables and chargers instead.
The tweet didn’t reference a specific instance of a cable or charger being used to compromise a phone, tablet, or computer but it does raise the question of whether people can trust the chargers that they see dotted around public spaces. Airports in particular are places where people might choose to top off their iPhones before boarding a flight for example.
While most people needn’t worry about targeted attacks, this kind of indiscriminate security threat could prove problematic for anyone and everyone. It’s for that reason that people should always make sure that they have the latest version of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS installed on their devices to ensure that they have the latest security updates available to them.