With prices topping $35 apiece or as low as $2 on bulk orders in the hundreds, USB blockers — affectionately called USB condoms — are a hot ticket because they are cleverly marketed as a phone charging “security accessory” and a “cable firewall” that supposedly keeps the bad guys out of your intimate smartphone data. A quick search yields over 13 million hits of dubious quality, so let’s take a closer look.

Modern society has its share of distractions that get in the way of cybersafety awareness and public agencies could be forgiven for being frustrated at the difficulty of getting through to people, but spreading quasi-hoaxes isn’t the way to do it.

There has never been a court case prosecuting juice jackers in the 12 years since the term was coined, and no one has ever provided evidence of a single solitary charging cable “implant” in the wild.

The closest thing to it? That one time a Toronto-based criminal duo stole 2000 cases of juice and the media called it juice-jacking.

Yet today — in 2023 CE — we have professional associations, media outlets and security “enthusiasts” breathlessly regurgitating government advisories with nary a shred of an anecdotal example to support claims that might as well have been lifted from sticky pages of cheap tabloids, such as:

“In some cases, criminals may have intentionally left cables plugged in at charging stations. There have even been reports of infected cables being given away as promotional gifts” and “bad actors can load malware onto public USB charging stations”.

No way! Really? Has anyone bothered to maybe snap a picture of such a thing with say, the phone they had plugged into the evil charger, or was it completely destroyed in the incident?

Do we really need to spell out the harms of amplifying dangerous rhetoric about a theoretical threat repeated as fact and force fed through mass media? These kinds of embarrassing histrionics are not only corrosive to the credibility of agencies that must never demonstrate anything less than impeccable professional integrity, but also to a public whose misplaced attention is now more likely to result in a false sense of security.