Consumer

Top cell threats to your phone

Monday, February 13, 2012

Many of us store important and private content on our cell phones, and don't think twice about if that information fell into the wrong hands.

Celebrities like Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis found their racy cell phone photos and private text messages leaked online after hackers breached their cell phones.

While most of us aren't high-profile targets like celebrities -- we do keep plenty of private information on our phones -- as we found out during a recent visit to the Fresno State campus.

Courtnei Johnson: "They would know everything about me, my whole life story just from looking at my phone."

Monica Gonzalez: "I have a lot of information that is on my phone and I wouldn't want people stealing my identity or taking over my stuff."

From pin codes to private pictures -- many of us carry information on our phones we wouldn't want in anyone else's hands. Security experts say as our computing moves from desktops to mobile devices, so will hacking activity and scams.

Sgt. Matt McFadden: "They need a hardware address and some tools and stuff and they can start to probe the defenses of your phone."

One of the newest scams involves QR Codes -- those black and white squares used in ads and stores. These days QR Codes are everywhere, you just may not have noticed them before. But if you're sitting in a waiting room, pick up any magazine, flip through the pages, and there they are.

Scanning them will typically take you to another website or video where you can learn more about the product or service. But the security community is warning of a more malicious purpose. Because anyone can create their own QR Codes -- like on this website we found.

Sgt. Matt McFadden: "Hey apply for credit cards here, and now you're entering all your personal information."

Clovis Police Sergeant Matt McFadden showed us another common cell phone hack -- Bluetooth snooping. Many cell phone users leave their Bluetooth signal constantly on, and never change the default passcodes, usually "0000" or "1234." a mistake that can give an attacker access to all your messages and contacts.

Sgt. Matt McFadden: "It's as simple as having a door there. You're going to check the door handle. You're gonna look under, look in the key hole. You may be able to pull the whole door off."

Smishing is a text-messaging variation on email phishing attacks, to trick victims into calling a fake bank or credit card company and divulging account numbers and passwords.

Some hackers set up free Wi-Fi access in public places such as libraries, cafes and airports. Unsuspecting users who log onto the hot spot are then monitored for passwords, credit card numbers and account information.

Those apps you download can be harmful too -- gull of malware that can infect your phone.

Sgt. Matt McFadden: "Some of these can be done without the user being aware of what's occurring."

Sergeant McFadden says the easiest way to protect your phone from hackers is to turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity and location services when you don't need them.

Keep current with system updates, which often contain security fixes. And think before you click or scan. Finally, store as little personal information on your phone as possible.

Marea Armstrong: "So I definitely need to make some adjustments on my phone."

Christine Park: "You need to take your social security off your phone."

Marea Armstrong: "That's what I'm going to do as soon as this interview's done."

Recently security researchers created an app called "Wallet Cracker" to show how easily they could reveal a Google wallet pin code on a phone. That's alarming because Google Wallet is directly tied to users' credit cards.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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