Tips to help you stay ahead of smartphone hackers

Your phone can be compromised in a surprising number of ways. Because mobile phones are so valuable to hackers, new exploits are always being discovered. Here are the most frequent dangers and what you can do to protect yourself against them.

What hackers value

  • The device itself: Your data can be wiped, the device reset, resold and reactivated. Thieves have gotten better at taking phones apart and reassembling them into new phones to sell.
  • Your data: Your phone is likely linked to your email, financial accounts and other personal records. Armed with your smartphone, a hacker could access your banking or cryptocurrency accounts by resetting your email password or receiving a secure pin via text.

Lost or stolen phones: What to do before and after

  • Track your phone with an app. The best ones track to within feet of where the phone is located. If your phone has been stolen, report its location to the police.
  • Secure your phone with a password, swipe code or passphrase—use the highest level of security your phone allows. Set the security settings to wipe the data on the phone after a certain number of password tries. For example, many of us forget or mistype our passwords from time to time. In this case, a good number of guesses might be 10.
  • If you lose your phone or it is stolen, notify your carrier right away and wipe the data if you are sure you cannot retrieve the phone.

We lose our phones all the time. In taxis, at movie theaters and restaurants. Some of us have even had them stolen from vehicles.

Social engineering

Hackers are increasingly using social engineering to persuade mobile carrier customer service to fraudulently port or transfer phone numbers without your permission. Once they transfer your number to their device, they have password resetting capability for your email, banking and other accounts.

To help lower the chances of this happening to you:

  • Place a “do not port” alert on your mobile phone account.
  • Use a pin for your account and require it for all changes.
  • If you receive a text or call from your mobile provider saying that someone is attempting to port your number, call them immediately. Do not respond directly to the message, as that may be a separate scam.

Phishing And Viruses

Texts and emails created by hackers can contain deceptive links or attachments that could infect your phone with malware. The malware can then steal your personal and financial information.

Your phone can also pick up a nasty virus by being plugged into a public charging station, a popular spot for hackers to spread malware.

Here are some recommendations to help protect your phone from phishing and viruses:

  • Do not accept text messages from numbers you do not recognize. Block them. If you are not already on the National Do Not Call Registry, sign up – it’s free and just takes two clicks, plus entering your phone number and email address.
  • Don’t click on links in texts, especially short ones or those that look suspicious, and don’t download files from emails unless you are already expecting something from someone you trust. If it’s financial, give the person a call, just to confirm it actually came from them.
  • Just as you have virus and malware protection for your home pc or laptop, it’s time to invest in smartphone protection. Do some research online. There are many competitive products priced at around $50 a year.
  • Don’t plug into any unknown charging stations or devices! Bring a wall charger or power bank with you. You might even want to invest in a charge-only USB cable, so data can’t be transmitted to, or stolen from your device.
  • Keep your operating system up to date. Operating system updates are usually issued in response to major security exploits. Because these updates are known to have weaknesses, you should review your product’s website to determine why the update has been issued and when to install it.

Mobile phones and your data on them can be compromised in a multitude of ways. Although keeping a step ahead of hackers is tough, educating yourself is critical.

For more helpful tips, register for HSB’s October webinar series on cybersecurity, or visit The National Cyber Security Alliance’s resource page on securing mobile devices.

This article was written in collaboration with Gerry D’Agostino, Market Development Consultant at HSB.

 

© 2017 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable coverage form.

Monique Ferraro

Monique is counsel in Munich Re’s US Cyber Practice at HSB. Previously, she was principal at a digital forensics, e-discovery and information security consulting firm and owner of a law firm. Ms. Ferraro is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.

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