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Cell phone hacking on the rise: How to keep sensitive data safe


Be aware of ‘phishing’ from the publisher’s desk

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting mobile devices to steal personal and sensitive information. With the travel season upon us, it’s a good time to take precautions to keep your private and sensitive data and information safe and secure.

Hackers have a variety of ways to gain access to a user’s mobile phone data, including phishing, malware, and social engineering. The FBI recently published a warning of cell phone vulnerabilities and precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim of having your mobile device hacked.

“Phishing,” one of the most common practices of hacking, is when the hacker sends fraudulent links or messages which may appear to users as legitimate for the purpose of tricking cell phone users into volunteering access to their sensitive information. For instance, a common practice is the hacker sends a message or email that, on the surface, appears to be from a legitimate source in which the user does business, such as a bank or online retailer and requests that the user input their login credentials. Once the user inputs their logins, the hacker will then go to the user’s account and log in as the user.

Another common way hackers are accessing sensitive data is through the use of malware. Hackers can download malware software to gain unauthorized access to the  device.  This type of software can be downloaded onto cell phones through a malicious link or  a fraudulent app. If they are successful in downloading the malware, the hacker will have access to the user’s sensitive data and information, including passwords, emails, photos and contacts. Use caution by carefully considering any downloads to your cell phone and if you receive links that are from unfamiliar sources, do not open.

Social engineering is another clever way that hackers utilize to gain access to your sensitive data and information on your cell phone. Senior citizens are often impacted by this method of data stealing. Social engineering is when hackers use  psychological manipulation to trick users into sharing their sensitive information.  For instance, a common example is when hackers pose as a legitimate source, a friend or family member, to trick users into giving them key data to gain access to the user’s sensitive information. Considering the wave of newly released artificial intelligence capable of mimicking voice patterns, the use of social engineering has been surging recently.

The FBI warned that cybercriminals are utilizing increasingly sophisticated tactics to gain access to mobile devices. The FBI put an emphasis on the fact that hackers are targeting business executives and government officials. Hackers have been known to modify airport charging stations and hotel room charge ports, known as “juice jacking,” where they inject malware onto devices as they are being charged.

There are  steps you can take to avoid having your cell phone hacked:

1) Avoid clicking on links or downloading apps from unknown sources. Take extra care and/or steps to verify the legitimacy of the source as it may look like the real thing.

2) Make sure your passwords are unique, enable two-factor authentication and avoid reusing the same password for different accounts.  Verify the identity the legitimacy of callers before sharing sensitive information.

3) Have your own charging cable and wall adapter when traveling and avoid using public charge stations or charging ports. Invest in a portable charger or battery pack to avoid falling victim to “juice jacking.”