Scam of the day – December 16, 2013 – Protecting your smartphone from being hacked

When it was first disclosed that reporters from the British tabloid “News of the World” had hacked into the smartphones of numerous people including celebrities, politicians, and even the royal family, it was big new around the world.  However, now that a criminal trial in Britain is going on dealing with those actions, news coverage in the United States has been somewhat muted.  Regardless of your interest in the particular case, everyone should be interested in protecting their smartphones from being hacked because the danger of identity theft that smartphone hacking provides is huge.  First, the good news, the simple way that the reporters for the “News of the World” used to hack into smartphones was to have two people call the number simultaneously.  When one went to voice mail, the hacker merely took advantage of the fact that at the time of the hackings many people did not bother to change the default PIN for retrieving voicemails and so they merely entered the default PIN for the network and got immediate access to the voice mails of the person called.  That problem has been fixed.  Now all networks have different PINS, which you set.  Some networks will only allow you to change your PIN in a call from your own smartphone to prevent hackers from calling, posing as you and answering security questions and then being able to change the PIN and get access to your voice mail.

TIPS

Protecting your voice mail begins with a strong PIN that is not easily guessed by a hacker.  You also should have a security question that is difficult for a hacker to guess.  Remember even if you are not a celebrity, you probably have a lot of personal information about you online such that someone could learn your mother’s maiden name, where you went to school or your pet’s name.  Many people don’t recognize the amount of personal information they provide to “friends” on Facebook and other social media.  I suggest that you use a nonsensical security question such as, “What is my favorite color?” with the answer “seven.”  It would be impossible for a hacker to guess and silly enough for you to remember.  Protecting the security of your smartphone is even more important today than it was years ago because we all do so much more on our smartphones and they contain much personal and financial information.  Protect your phone with a complex password, have it lock when it has not been used for a period of time, install encryption software, install anti-malware software, install anti-virus software and keep all of these security programs up to date with the latest security patches.  Also make sure that when you download apps, that you get them from legitimate sources.  Corrupted apps are a major source of malware that steals information from your phone.  Also do not click on links or download attachments on your smartphone unless you are absolutely sure they are legitimate.  Tainted links and attachments are a major source of malware that often is to new for your anti-malware software to protect you from.    Finally, delete voice mails after you have listened to them.  If you follow these precautions, your safety will be much improved.