Phone Hacking Scandal: Some Takeaways
July 21, 2011
By Jack Walsh

Have you heard about the phone hacking scandal rocking the UK and the Rupert Murdoch empire? Even if you haven't, you might be surprised to learn that your cell phone may be susceptible to what amounts to voice mail caller ID spoofing. It’s perfect for those of you who have angry, jilted, ex-lovers (for example). Because Brian Krebs talks about how this caller ID spoofing is perpetrated in more detail on his blog, I won’t go into it here.

The basic takeaway from this scandal is this: people need to take basic steps to protect their mobile phones, smart phones, tablets, etc. After all, these devices are basically small computers that fit in our hands.

Begin by ensuring that your device is equipped with both a password and voicemail pin. If not, go ahead and set these up. Avoid common passwords and pins like 0000, 1234, 1111, and 2222. One iOS developer did a study of the 10 most common Apple iPhone passwords. You’ll want to avoid passwords and voicemail pins such those – even if you don’t carry an iPhone. Also it wouldn’t be prudent to use numbers or strings of numbers that an attacker might know about you or your family including:

  • Dates of birth for household family members and other key dates (e.g., your wedding)
  • Your home’s street number
  • Your phone number
  • Your zip code
  • Your SSN or drivers license number


In addition to setting a password and voicemail pin, consider what could be a very real possibility: that your mobile device is lost or stolen. Should you configure it to wipe all data after a certain number of failed login attempts? Maybe, maybe not. If you have kids or a spouse who might get access to your mobile device, then you might want to think twice before setting it to wipe all data after a certain number of login failures. An alternative option for iPhone/iPad users is to set up a MobileMe account. Then if your device is lost or stolen you can send instructions to remotely wipe its contents. Similar apps and services exist for many other brands of mobile devices.

Remember: protecting your mobile phone is your responsibility.


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