The News of the World scandal has turned a spotlight on telephone security. Surprisingly, it’s often easy to hack into phones and voice mail because owners make it easy. Owners often don’t enable or update their security.
“People buy expensive phones and rarely take a good look at its security features,” says Stephen Pearson, managing partner with High Tech Crime Institute in Tampa, Florida. He says that people who fail to setup a passcode on their phone “are fools and asking to be victims”.
Smartphones are, of course, much more than just mobile phones. That makes you more vulnerable if your phone is compromised. Voice messages, e-mail, texts and more are all accessible.
According to Pearson, it’s not difficult to hack into voice mail if stored on the phone. It’s more challenging if stored on a service provider’s server, but possible if the phone is breached first. News of the World staff used various methods to access phones. In many cases it was easy because users had not changed default passcodes such as 1111.
One tactic uses was for a reporter to call a target’s mobile phone, and while they were on the line another reporter would also call the same number. That directed the second reporter to the voice mail, whereupon a default code was entered to listen to messages.
As I wrote in my article “Password” is not a good password, the user is often the weak link. Learn your phone’s security features. Set a good passcode that can’t be easily guessed. And keep your phone physically secure, not leaving it unattended in risky situations.