Thanks to the News of the World scandal in the U.K., phone hacking prevention is a hot topic. Traditionally a headache reserved for celebrities, smartphone-hacking concerns have crossed the VIP vs. everyone else blood-brain barrier and now potentially impacts anyone who owns a cell phone.
But is this really a serious problem for us regular folks? Are our voicemail messages so interesting that someone would invade our privacy to listen in? Before we go barking up the narcissism tree, it’s best to examine what phone hacking is and whether you really need to worry about it.
There are two types of phone hacking: hacking into a live conversation or into someone’s voicemail, and hacking into data stored on one’s smart-phone. Just as the majority of abductions are carried out by a member of the abductee’s family—unless you go by code name POTUS or are Hugh Grant—the person most likely to hack into your live conversation or voicemail will be someone that you know who has an axe to grind.
And in today’s mobile world, phone hacking is growing as a security issue. As people increasingly store sensitive data on their mobile devices, the opportunity to exploit privacy weaknesses becomes more tempting to unscrupulous frenemies, exes or the occasional stranger.
There is a cottage industry of phone hacking software ostensibly developed for legal uses but is easily abused (password crackers aptly named John the Ripper and Cain and Abel are two examples). Opportunistic hackers can wreak havoc with data deletion or install malicious software that gathers bank account logins and confidential business emails.
If you want to be proactive, there are several measures you can take to protect yourself against phone hacking, most of which involve common sense. For example:
If you’re still worried about hacking, there are further steps you can take to protect yourself. However, taking things too far will defeat the purpose of having a smartphone at all.
Remember—if the thought of hacking has you tossing and turning at night, you can just turn the phone off, remove the battery and hide it under your pillow for some sweet lithium-ion induced dreams.
By Tracy Mardigian-Kiles