In 2013, a company called iSEC Partners demonstrated vulnerability in Verizon’s cell phone network by hacking into a device called a femtocell, which can be purchased by the average consumer for under $300. A femtocell is a wireless network extender that many people purchase to improve poor cell phone service. The iSEC team was able to hack into the device and gain access to all phones within a 40-foot radius. They were able to read messages, see user’s screens, and – most disturbingly – view passwords as they were typed into bank accounts and private corporate accounts.
Verizon has fixed the problem since the vulnerability was discovered, but this is just one example of the many access points hackers have to your mobile device. Hacking is a much more serious problem than picking up someone’s mobile device when they have forgotten to lock it; real hacking is a malicious intrusion into your technology in an attempt to gain your personal information or cause damage to your property. Our telecommunications experts have uncovered a great deal during our audits, but the most serious crime is one perpetrated not by telecom companies, but by hackers.
Passwords may not protect you in the event of the hack described above, but they are useful against theft. The following tips can help keep your information secure and prevent unauthorized access to your personal information:
- Use passwords to access your device’s home screen and “Device Settings”
- Don’t share passwords with others
- Use unique passwords for each account
- Don’t program your passwords
- Don’t allow browsers to save passwords
As for the password itself, the rule of thumb is to create a password that is hard for others to guess, but easy for you to remember. Try to avoid birthdays, anniversaries, consecutive numbers, or information that is easily located about you online. Real words found in a dictionary are also discouraged. Instead, we recommend a combination of letters and numbers. If you must incorporate a word into your password, misspell it or substitute numbers for certain letters of the alphabet, like zero for the letter “O” or the number 4 for “A.” Obscure symbols like underscores, asterisks or @ symbols are all good options as well.
Bad password: LindasBankAccount1980
Good password: s3cur1Teef0rEv3r_
Disable Bluetooth Discovery
Bluetooth discovery mode allows anyone – hackers included – to find your phone anywhere, anytime (even if it is powered off). Disable Bluetooth discovery immediately upon purchase of a new phone to help protect yourself from others scanning for Bluetooth devices in the area. Hackers can’t break into your phone if they can’t find it!
Back it Up
In the event that a hacker does access your device, it is unlikely you will regain access. Plan for the worst and back up your device regularly. Delete unwanted voicemails and text messages that could give hackers information about you. If you have valuable photos or notes you want to save, store them on an external hard drive or send them to your laptop or tablet.
Remember any accounts that might be linked to your phone. If your phone has been stolen, assume the thief has access to your email and social media accounts as well. Revoke mobile access to these accounts from the device immediately and change all passwords.
Install Security Software
“Viruses” for phones don’t currently exist. Malware, on the other hand, does, and these hackers count on the fact that they are invisible, lurking in the background of your device, waiting for critical passwords to be entered. Security software can be downloaded in the form of apps. Not only will these apps help secure your phone, but many will allow you to have remote access to your device in the event of theft. Remote access will permit you to lock your phone, track its location, or even wipe the phone so no personal data is left.
Unauthorized access to your phone is both a state and federal crime. While hackers will always exist, it is up to each individual to add layers of protection to their devices that might deter crime. Protect your phone from hackers with these tips. For protection against inflated telecom bills, call Telanalysis! We’ll save you money or your audit is free.