You May Want To Think Twice Before Trying Out This Viral Travel Hack From TikTok

It happens to everybody at some point — when rushing to pack and get to the airport on time for a flight, there's always something forgotten. Forgetting a toiletries bag or your favorite shirt might not be the end of the world, but quite often forgetting your smartphone charger is. These days, smartphones carry so much more than pictures and Facebook. They have our plane tickets, our hotel reservations, even the unlocking mechanism on our rental cars! It would seem, however, that the travel industry has come up with a solution. As this viral Instagram reel points out to their 6.3 million followers, you can use the USB port on the back of your hotel room's TV to charge your phone. What's more, as TikTok user @ashley_travels1 pointed out during a stop at London's Gatwick Airport, there are charging points located all throughout the airport's terminals, making it easy to jack up on the juice.

However, another TikToker is sounding the alarm on this practice, and is warning that using these public outlets, specifically the USB ports, might lead to serious consequences for your data privacy. User @seansvv shared to his 1.6 million followers that cyber criminals can "corrupt" the USB ports and gain access to your data this way, in a theft known as "juice jacking." How is that possible? And how can you protect yourself when you've forgotten your charger? We take a closer look.

Always use a portable charger

The FCC put out an official warning against using public USB ports when travelling, because bad actors can load malware into the ports, thereby stealing your passwords or sensitive data (think of all your banking info, ID, and medical vaccines saved in your digital wallet) and selling it on the black market. CEO and founder of a digital protection company, Chris Pierson explained it to The Huffington Post this way: "While it may seem less risky to plug into the back of the TV in your hotel room, just remember that many other people may have done the same thing, which means they could have deliberately or unintentionally infected it with malware. Additionally, if the TV connects to the hotel's WiFi network, a remote hacker could potentially spread malware to it that way, too."

Simple ways to protect yourself include always using a charging cube in an electrical outlet, rather than public USB ports, but if you've forgotten yours at home, the Denver branch of the FBI tweeted your solution should be to never forget to bring a portable charger with you. Luckily, most airports and hotel gift shops stock portable chargers, and they are rather inexpensive compared to the price of a new charging cube. You can even find them at your local dollar store. The FCC also recommends using "charging only" cables. In addition, they remind users to never select the "trust this computer" prompt when using a public charging station.