Based on my last post, the question arises "What can we do to protect my phone being hacked?"
Well, I'm glad you asked!
Let's start with...
The Many Dangers of Having Your Cell Phone Hacked
Kathy had just hung up from an important, and private, phone call with a family member. As a family-oriented person, keeping up with family and close relatives was very important to her.
Having a personal matter that she was dealing with, Kathy had asked her relative to find out some information for her, and to also secure some items that she needed - but she did not want anyone else to know about it.
The following day, however, Kathy noticed that some acquaintances (not friends) mentioned bits and pieces of information from her prior phone call, almost word for word. What made the matter even more startling to Kathy was that this had happened on other occasions, but she had just chalked it up to coincidence.
Later on, Kathy found out that her cell phone calls and her text messages were not only being hacked, but also leaked out to people that she knew. Someone in her circle of acquaintances has accessed her phone calls and texts, and related bits of her private business to both her friends and foes alike - and this had been going on for much longer than she had realized.
Kathy had been a victim of cell phone hacking - and because of that, her online safety was now compromised.1
Our smart phones hold a lot of data on them - which makes them extremely convenient to have with us at all times, and to use for numerous purposes. For many people, there is a long list of tasks that can be accomplished directly through their phones, such as:
- Making bank and financial transactions
- Sending and receiving emails - both personal and business
- Making travel arrangements
- Keeping track of appointments
- Turning lights on and off from a remote location
- Posting on social media sites
- Taking and storing pictures
This plethora of information and data isn't just important to us, though, but also to identity thieves. By hacking into your cell or smart phone, an identity thief can gain access to a literal goldmine of data by which to benefit. They can also turn your life - including intimate, personal details - into an open book.
Texts, phone calls, and other information can be fully disclosed by a hacker - and it is much easier (and less expensive) than you might think to get hold of your data.
For instance, by using a device called a femtocell - which can typically be purchased by a hacker for less than $300 - the hacker will essentially have a mini cell phone tower that allows them to pick up the signal from phones that are within a 40-foot radius, and capture their data. This includes the passwords that users type in when doing online banking and other seemingly secure transactions.2
Many people don't realize just how open and vulnerable to hacking their mobile phones can be. In addition to using a femtocell device, there are other ways that criminals can gain access to your data, too.
In fact, even something as simple as dialing your cell phone number and using a device to search through your phone data is a way of hacking to your cell phone. Because of the vast danger to your private information, then, the same security that you take with a desktop or laptop computer should also be taken with cell and smart phones.
It's Not Just Personal, It's Business
Although personal information can certainly be enticing to hackers, given the rise of smart phones and tablets in the work place today, criminals are also attempting to attack businesses via vulnerabilities in mobile devices.
In fact, the costs that are associated with cyber attacks can cost businesses thousands - or even millions - of dollars, in addition to customer goodwill, sales, profits, and even the business's future. And, it's not just large companies that are being attacked.
Small companies are often even more at risk. One reason for this is because smaller companies usually have a smaller budget for online security - which equates to easier access for hackers.
Also, with more and more people working as independent contractors today, the likelihood of workers bringing their own - possibly infected - phones and other devices into the workplace are much higher now.
Also, because so much business - including financial transactions - is conducted on the go now, the possibility of employees and business owners holding private, sensitive information on their phones and mobile devices has increased. This makes hacking into these devices even more attractive for online criminals.
Taking the Necessary Cell Phone Hack Proofing Steps
Your phone holds a myriad of information about you, your family, and possibly even your business - so why take a chance on getting hacked? In order to reduce the likelihood of becoming a cell phone hacking victim, some of the most important steps you can take include the following:
- Keep your phone's software updated. One of the best ways that you can reduce the risk of a smart phone hack is to make sure that your software is updated. And, installing updates as soon as they become available can be even more beneficial.
- Use discretion with installs and permissions. If you install any apps on your phone, be extremely careful when granting various permissions, such as the ability to access your camera, read your files, and / or listen in on your microphone. While there may be some legitimate uses for such capabilities, allowing them can also leave you wide open to vulnerabilities. And, depending on whether or not you're installing apps from certain third-party sources, you could also be at risk for rogue apps to get onto your phone. Therefore, be sure that you use discretion before installing applications and / or approving such requests. One of the other ways that you can ensure that you won't be the victim of a malicious app is to limit the use of apps that you install. With that in mind, prior to installing any app, ask yourself if it is really necessary for you to have it on your phone.
- Regularly review the apps already installed on your phone. Installing new apps isn't the only way you can be vulnerable to a phone hack. Here, even though these apps may have been fine when they were initially installed, subsequent updates could have turned them into something more dangerous. With that in mind, review which permissions these apps are now using.
- Consider using a security app. Just like with your computer, there are various security apps available for your phone that will alert you if a fraudulent email or message is attempting to trick you into entering your password in an un-trusted webpage or app. Two of the most popular security apps are from McAfee and Avast - and they are free.
- Back up your phone's data. It is also important to regularly back up the information and data on your phone - and when doing so, be sure that you back up the information in two places...the cloud, and your computer. This way, should something happen to your phone, you can perform a factory reset, which will basically erase the information on your phone, while at the same time knowing that this information is safe in two other places.
- Beware of open wifi. While it can be extremely convenient to pay bills or transfer money from your phone in public places, it can also be extremely risky when doing so from an open wi-fi network. That's because anybody who is in the vicinity can snoop, provided that they have the right software. There are some tools available, such as CyberGhost, that can keep your data at least somewhat safer by routing your traffic through a private, encrypted channel.
- Make it difficult for a hacker to get into your phone. If by chance you lose your phone or it is stolen, there are ways that you can make it more difficult for a hacker to get into your information. For instance, you should always make sure that your phone is locked when it's not in use. In this case, both iOS and Android phones can be set to require a pass code, or a PIN, before any information can be opened. Some devices also offer other safety related options, too, such as a requirement for a fingerprint or facial recognition before they unlock. You may also have the ability to lock certain apps on your phone. For example, you could require an additional pass code to get into your bank account and / or credit card information.
You should also contact your mobile phone service provider if your phone has been compromised - physically, digitally, or both. This can help to save you money due to unauthorized use of your phone. Also, check with your mobile phone carrier to see if they offer insurance against mobile phone hacking. As an additional safety precaution, be sure to use a "find my phone" program, which can track your phone's physical location, as well as turn off and lock your device.
With identity theft become so much more common today, when it comes to being hacked, it is oftentimes not so much a question of "if," but "when." But there are ways that you can protect yourself and your private personal and business information.
So that is our two-part post on protecting your phone from being hacked.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Best to you always,
Artie "Leave my phone alone" Bernaducci