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Q&A: How Phones are Hacked and Prevention Strategies

Updated on November 14, 2016
janderson99 profile image

John uses his scientific skills (PhD) & experience developing 50+ websites to research, review & evaluate SEO, website design, Social Media

Hacking of mobile phones and related practices such as blagging and pinging have been in the news lately and the practice has led to the closure of 'News of the World' a 168-year-old newspaper - Goodbye Cruel World!. The controversy has spread with allegations that it may have been a widespread practice. What is this all about and how can you prevent you phone from being hacked?

What is phone hacking?

There are many types of phone hacking and phone-taping that are conducted legally by police and illegally by newspaper reporters, private investigators, spies and other people and groups. Hacking in the latest instance means getting access to another person's voicemail. The vulnerability occurs because the phone companies have developed systems which allow you the owner of the phone, to access your messages remotely, using another land-line phone or cell-phone. The same vulnerability applies to any message banks on your land-line phone as well. You as owner of the phone can simply ring the number, enter a pin number and the messages will be replayed for you to listing to. But others can hack into this tool and access your voice mail.

GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD
GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD

For many of the older phones a default pin number was set for the phone when it was purchased. Uses could change their pin number, but many uses didn't not bother, and so there were a huge number of phones with the same default pin number such as "1111", "9999", "1234" etc. All the hacker had to do was call your number when it was engaged or the phone was turned off, enter a default pin associated with the brand of phone you were using and they would have access to your inbox.

Many people publish their mobile numbers on websites, in emails and in social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.The provider can often be identified by Googling the whole number or part of it. Various providers have different systems associated with pin numbers, ways of accessing you voice mail and default pin numbers. So once the phone number and provider were known it was a simple matter of trying the default pins. In some cases personalised pins could be obtained illegally from various websites on the internet. Also A four number pin is relatively easy to hack simply by trial and error, especially when many people use part of their birth date, mother's maiden name and other codes that can be found in various ways.

What is Caller ID Spoofing?

Caller ID Spoofing is a system which allows you phone someone and to pose as another phone number. A relatively simple bit of software or a website is used to do this. The hacker is prompted to enter the phone number he wants to call, and the phone number he wants to masquerade as calling from. The system is tricked into thinking the call is coming from the owner’s phone. Many cell phone providers have systems which skip the pass code when the call is initiated from the handset owned by the consumer. Hackers can then access the voicemail without entering a pass code.

Are Newer Phone Safer Now?

The network providers have tighten up the access to mail messages. Default PINs are no longer allocated. New phone owners are required to set up their own PIN when setting the voicemail. That at least makes it harder for hackers, though it can still be done, especially if you make it easier for them. Picking a PIN with recurring or sequential numbers (4444 or 1234 for example) or your birthday or other personal codes that can be easily found should avoided.

How does Social media increase the risks?

Twitter, Facebook and other social networks represent a potential hazard. Some people put far too much personal information on their profile page on Facebook. This may include their mobile phone number, date of birth, their address.

Disclosing location information can also be a risk. Many people like to 'check in' and tell their followers and friends where we are. Hackers can then target that location to ease-drop on your conversations. This also tells criminals where you aren't - that is you are not at home and your house is vacant and ripe for burglars to pay a visit.

What is Text and SMS spoofing?

SMS spoofing is a relatively new technique which uses SMS to replace the originating mobile number (Sender ID) with alphanumeric text. The new text can fool the person receiving the call into believing it is from a trusted source. It may also be used to fool the provider into believing the message requesting a pin number came from the owner rather than a hacker. Spoofing has legitimate uses such as for company name identification, caller identification etc. But it can have illegitimate uses, such as impersonating company, another person or product.

Are Smartphones More or Less Vulnerable?

Smartphones are essentially mini-computers that store lots more data that standard mobile phones, including e-mails, text messages, data, calendars, appointments and photos. This means that intrusions can cause much more damage - you have much more to lose. Likewise there are many more vulnerability points that provide entry points for hackers, than on a standard phone. Smartphones are relatively new and many users believe they are secure, but hackers are developing all sorts of ways to hack smartphones.

Various malware and trojans can infect the mobile phones and install key loggers and other software, which that can intercept calls or send out text messages, passwords and emails from and transmit to another device using Bluetooth. Techniques such as text message spoofing and fake Wi-Fi hotspots can be the source of these infections. New techniques are popping up all the time often attached to apps and other downloads. Security agencies have begun warning that cell phones are clearly identified as the next frontier for cyber attack.

Can Fake apps Steal your Identity and Provide Access to Your Inbox and other Data?

Mobile phone apps are very popular and most a smartphone owners has tens to hundreds of apps installed on their phone. This provides an opportunity for hackers to make fake app or attach the malware to a legitimate app and get users to download it. The malware can access and steal all sorts of information about the phone, messages and data. Smartphone users are advised to install one of many security apps that constantly check for malware. Apps should only be downloaded from legitimate and safe sources. Currently, iTunes has far more rigorous checks in place than those apps available to Android mobiles. It is wise to be extra cautious if you own an Android. It's a good idea to do some research on any app before you download it onto your phone too.

What is Blagging?

Blagging is defined as recklessly or knowingly getting or disclosing personal information and data or without the approval of the data owner. Blagging is illegal and applies to addresses, phone bills, bank statements and health records, etc. Hackers impersonate the data owners to hack their information using stolen identity information. Private detectives have been caught bribing staff at banks, phone providers or hospitals to get confidential information. Hackers look through garbage to get discarded documents with person information to prove identity for the blagging. The practices is also known as Pretexting.

Can Hackers use Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a great facility to send photos, music or files to friends in close proximity, without having to pay for it. However, like public Wi-Fi, it is open to being hijacked, putting your personal information at risk and allowing malware to be transferred to your phone. Make sure you turn off your Bluetooth whenever you are not using it. Changing your settings so that your Bluetooth is not ‘discoverable’ is also a smart move. Always be extremely vigilant about accepting connections with people you don't know.

How does Cloning of Handsets work?

Cloning of handsets is another method that hackers use. When the genuine handset is switched-off the cloned phone receives the calls and messages. The cloning requires a special kit and techniques. The tools are used to take an image of the phone, duplicate other elements on the phone and duplicate the SIM card. It is not easy to do but it can be done.

What is Land Line Phone-tapping and FlexiSpy?

Traditionally, landlines were hacked into by physically connecting through terminal boxes and cables either locally or at the exchanges. The land lines are hardly secure. One of main modern methods is via a software application known as FlexiSpy, which is an authorized tool that parents use to ease-drop on their children's calls. It is attached secretly to your handset. The tool transfers recordings of voicemails and messages and to special website where that data can be can picked up. The software to run it can be downloaded to the phone via Bluetooth or WiFi, but permission for access is required to agree to the download. Some networks have banned it, but it has been used by parents.

What is Local Area Mobile Phone Tapping?

Various Software applications allow remote listening to all phone conversations within a local area. For example, a hacker could set up the system outside a famous person's house. This system is not widely available but it exists and has been widely used. Essentially the application picks up the broadcast signals, decrypts the data and allow the hacker to listen in on your calls.

What is Pinging a Mobile Phone?

Pinging a cell phone is finding out what cell tower their phone is in. Mobile phone companies can triangulate the approximate location of a mobile phone by checking which transmission masts the hone is closest to. This information is subject to controls and while law enforcement agencies regularly use is it is not available to the generally public, but may be able to be hacked. basis. Now cell phones come with GPS, hackers can determine your exact location, even when your phone is turned off!

How to protect yourself?

  • Make sure you change your default passwords to a unique pin that doesn't contain your birthday or any other number or phrase linked to you.
  • Change your pin frequently.
  • Don't disclose your pin or phone number via email, twitter, facebook or other social networks
  • Keep your identity secure, including your mail and trash. Hackers may be able to get enough information to convince your provider into giving a hacker your pin.
  • Be very careful with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to avoid being hacked or picking up malware.
  • Don't lend you phone to anyone or leave it unattended and vulnerable to being infected wth malware or someone getting your pin or other detail.
  • Be very careful with apps and install a mobile security package to detect malware and intrusions.
  • Don't install suspicious programs and use common sense about software and apps.
  • Beware of all suspicious addresses or communications. If in doubt do some research.

© janderson99-HubPages


© 2011 Dr. John Anderson

Comments

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  • profile image

    Kk 5 years ago

    This is interesting

  • Mud Engineer profile image

    Mud Engineer 5 years ago from Texas

    Very interesting article. I always wondered how celebrity phones get hacked. This sheds some light on questions that were often lingering in the back of my mind. Good overall coverage of the subject. Your hub has inspired me to look up more information on on my phone and rethink my own data security. I would love to find a case study that shows how how the iPhone can get hacked because then I would know how to protect myself from threats. Keep up the good work. Thumbs up!

  • rednickle profile image

    rednickle 5 years ago from New Brunswick Canada

    wow really useful piece here. Thanks for sharing

  • MurciélagoHeart profile image

    MurciélagoHeart 5 years ago from San Francisco

    Nice Hub, voted.

  • Mighty Mom profile image

    Susan Reid 5 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

    I will never use my cell phone again.

    Glad I have thusfar resisted getting a smartphone. Too risky!

    Excellent hub. Thanks for sharing these vital security tips. MM

  • sharewhatuknow profile image

    sharewhatuknow 5 years ago from Western Washington

    Wow, thanks for all these wonderful tips. I disconnected all data plans on our cell phones, gotta enough to worry about with our 2 PC's.

    My young adult daughter does not have a pc at home, and went to her local library to get online and post Facebook messages, my brother used a laptop computer.

    Both of their email addresses have been hijacked and I now get SPAM from these scum artists that stole both.

    Very sad.

    If these spammers spent as much time working and going to school as they did hijacking others' email addresses and sending out their SPAM/Malware, whatever, they would be millionaires by now !!

    Sooner or later I will have to have data plans, so your hub is very useful and appreciated.

    Very happy to make your acquaintance janderson99.

    Voted up too!

  • profile image

    rob 5 years ago

    Smart phones have become a big problematic midlit and they. Should fix and inshore all aspects of the pda

  • athena2011 profile image

    athena2011 5 years ago from Beachfront - In My Dreams:)

    Wish these idiots would go out and get a life rather than trying to make others' lives miserable. Interesting Hub.

  • Rusticliving profile image

    Elizabeth Rayen 5 years ago from California

    Scarey! Had no idea it could be that bad! Think I need to go back to a couple of cans and a string!

    Great info and good tips!

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Lisa RusticLiving

  • prism3x profile image

    prism3x 5 years ago

    thanks for sharing all the great information on phones...had no idea!

  • profile image

    praveen singh 5 years ago

    sir,

    i never know that cellphone number is hacked. so my cell phone number is hacked by one person and i does not know who is this. my sim card is prepaid . please help me for prevent hacking sim card. my email id- puneetsingh128@gmail.com.

    please help me.

  • wrenfrost56 profile image

    wrenfrost56 5 years ago from U.K.

    Excellent hub, really useful and full of interesting information. I recently had my facebook hacked into (down to my own stupidity) and don't want the same thing happening to my phone, so this hub was a particularly good thing for me to read. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on this subject. :)

  • Sulayman Loop profile image

    Sulayman Wanambisi 5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

    I love what I read. VERY very useful and remarkably smart. This hub inspired me to write my next hub.Thanks

  • marketingbloke profile image

    marketingbloke 5 years ago

    Nice, insightful write up. Thanks

  • spyphone profile image

    Ramy Haus 2 years ago from Bangkok

    A lot of good information in this hub.

  • profile image

    mikeydcarroll67 2 years ago

    These are very good tips for those of us seeking to make our lives a lot more secure.

  • Jessica Smiths1 profile image

    Jessica Smiths1 10 months ago

    Hi people, I confirmed the excellent works of these guys last month and I was amazed, they helped me hack an email account and phone texts and I was able to check the mails entering the email account and the texts sent and received on the person's phone. They also hack websites, upgrade school grades,tracking device, spread information or products to large number of people, social media hacks and lots of hacking services. Contact them on zeushackers01@outlook.com

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