Traditionally a headache reserved for celebrities, smartphone-hacking concerns have crossed the VIP vs. everyone else blood-brain barrier and are now a legitimate concern for 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.
The Security Risks of Phone Hacking
There are many types of phone hacking methods, ranging from hacking into a live conversation or into someone’s voicemail, and to hacking into data stored on one’s smartphone. While the fear of the unknown can keep anyone on edge, the person most likely to hack into your live conversation or voicemail will be someone that you already know, and in today’s mobile world, phone hacking continually grows 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 that can be easily abused by anyone (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. So, how can you make things tougher for hackers?
How to Secure Your Phone From Hackers
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. In addition, there are advanced methods to ensure that your phone is as secure as possible (without losing its full functionality). For example:
Basic Phone Security Tips
For casual phone users, adhering to the basics is a great place to start when it comes to blocking simple hacking efforts:
- Never leave your phone unattended. Keeping your phone with you at all times while in a public place is the first, best rule to follow.
- Change your phone’s default passcode. Your phone likely comes with a simple, predictable default password, and those who know can use this to their advantage. Change your code to something more complex, and resist the usual "1234," "0000" and “2580” codes that are commonly used.
- Manage your Bluetooth Security. Avoid using unprotected Bluetooth networks and turn off your Bluetooth service when you aren’t using it.
- Protect your PIN and Credit Card data. Use a protected app to store PIN numbers and credit cards, or better yet, don’t store them in your phone at all.
Advanced Ways to Prevent Phone Hacking
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.
- Avoid unsecured public WiFi. Hackers often target important locations such as bank accounts via public WiFi that can often be unsecured due to relaxed safety standards or even none at all.
- Turn off your autocomplete feature. By doing this, you can prevent stored critical personal data from being accessed.
- Regularly delete your browsing history, cookies, and cache. Removing your virtual footprint is important in minimizing the amount of data that can be harvested by prying eyes.
- Have an iPhone? Enable Find My iPhone. By turning the feature on in your settings, you’ll be able to locate your phone if you misplace it before the hackers can lay their paws on it.
Use a security app that increases protection. For Android owners, Webroot offers the all-in-one Mobile Security for Android app that provides antivirus protection and allows you to remotely locate, lock up and wipe your phone in the event you lose track of it. For iOS users, Webroot also offers a free secure web browser for increased mobile security on your iPhone and iPad.
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. Or, you can double down on securing your mobile devices with mobile security solutions offering secure web browsing and real-time defense against phishing attacks.