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10 things that hackers can do by hacking into your smartphone

Guess how is the Internet linked to the figures 6,371 km and 12.7 cm? No rewards for guessing!

6,371 km is the radius of the Earth and 12.7 cm is the size to which it has been reduced in the guise of a smartphone!

Thanks to the World Wide Web, we now have the world at the tip of our fingertips. Little did William Shakespeare know while using the phrase “the world is one’s oyster” in his play ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ that a few centuries later the world would literally be everyone’s oyster. To quote Bill Gates “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” But as they say, all that glitters is not gold!

Contrary to the multiple ways in which the Internet has been a boon, there’s a discernable bane that we are all vulnerable to every single second – Hacking. We all have heard about it. We all know about it. We have had much to read about it. But think about it again? Did you know these 10 things which hackers could do to your smartphone if they do manage to hack it?

Hacking is like a landmine. You never know when you end up putting the wrong foot forward!

1. Beware! Someone May Be Eavesdropping Your Calls

This is going to be a shocker! Did you know that it costs hackers a mere $250 to listen to your cell phone calls? Cell phones connected to GSM-based networks were first to be overpowered by this hack, and CDMA-based networks soon followed suit. This involves the fake recreation of a cell phone tower which serves the purpose of masking the actual network tower by overpowering the signals from the genuine base stations.

How Hackers Use the Faux Cell Phone Tower?

What happens next is that hackers can keep a watch over all the traffic that crosses this “tower” while the cellphone user is completely oblivious to it. This makeshift tower or femtocell is readily available in the market and is often sold by telecom companies as a signal booster. And thus this device that’s no bigger than a small box resting innocuously on the hacker’s desk can actually result in all your calls, messages and e-mails getting accessed by a potential hacker!

2. Kidnapped! Your Phone Could Be Held Ransom

The attack on computer networks worldwide by ransomware WannaCry in 2017 turned the global attention to the word ‘ransomware’. Suddenly, ‘ransomware’ was the most searched keyword on Google. Frantic messages and e-mails were circulated and corporates had their digital security beefed up.

However, ransomware is not just a corporate menace.

Even your smartphone could be infected with a ransomware and hackers can hold your phone ransom till you shell out some money. The serious cause for concern here is that hackers can actually lock down every information in your phone till the ransom is paid. And you think you can circumvent the payment of ransom? Well, there have been cases where hackers blackmailed the users with threats to report them to the police/authorities for possession of child pornography on their phones

3. Your House May Be Getting Mapped. Beware!

Mobile applications are the go-to saviors for the current generation of millennials. We have an app for everything – for aiding in communications, for getting some work done and sometimes just for plain leisure. Some individuals are simply obsessed with new mobile apps and download them regardless of whether or not they are needed. Some such apps may actually be a gateway for hackers to have access to your personal lives!

Wondering how?

Well, some such harmless looking app may actually be integrated with a hidden spy camera that can capture photographs of you, your activities and your surroundings!!! Sounds creepy? That’s the harsh reality! Smartphone cameras can be exploited as a digital peephole by hackers to keep track of all your activities.

In fact, hackers can use the arsenal of images of your surroundings to develop composite images that provide them with a 3D map to your office or home! Heart beating fast? Stay wary of irrelevant apps and ensure that your phone is protected by strong firewalls to avoid attacks by Trojans and malware.

4. Typed Something and Erased It? Hackers Know Everything!

Yes, you heard that right! And this is seriously disturbing, isn’t it? You know of the ‘tilt detector’ feature in your smartphone which auto-flips your browser when it the phone is turned on its side? Well, a research team from Georgia Institute of Technology has found all phones post the iPhone 4 has a more sophisticated version of the tilt sensor called the “accelerometer”.

This advanced sensor helps read vibrations from your computer’s keyboard as you type when the phone is left in its vicinity. This helps in detecting whatever you are typing with almost 80% accuracy! So in case, your phone is hacked, mathematical algorithms used in collaboration with the information provided by the sensors enable hackers to calculate the keys that you pressed while typingNeedless to say, this makes your confidential information such as passwords, e-mails, and other sensitive data easily available to hackers.

Quick Tip: Keep your phone inside your bag while using the keyboard as researchers have found that the sensors are effective only within three inches from the keyboard.

5. Your Phone Could Be Used to Hack Others

Don’t we all obsess a little too much over the new-age technology buddies – Google Assistant, Cortana and Siri? Well, these same features could be used maliciously in case your smartphone is hacked. By causing you to install the right malware, hackers can turn your phone into a zombie! Now, who would have thought of that?

Using your smartphone to send malware and spam to other users lets hackers mask the original source of the hack. So now you know who law enforcement agencies would come looking for when they investigate a hack triggered from your phone? Known as distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS), this enables the launching of targeted attacks. Thus, it’s essential that you secure your home network, especially in case you use WiFi, keep your anti-virus up to date, and avoid opening e-mails from unknown sources and also use VPN when connecting your phone to a public network.

6. Stay Wary of Digital Pickpockets!

We have all heard of Android Pay, Apple Pay, Fitbit Pay, PayWave, Zip and other such contactless’ payments apps. Contactless cards are the trending buzzword in the world of financial technology. Fitted with a Radio Frequency Identification Chip (RFID), the idea behind such an initiative was to simplify the way millennials shop! However, having moved into the digital era where our lives are centered around digital wallets, the art of ‘digital pickpocketing’ also needs a special mention.

While the idea of contactless payment is gaining pace all across the globe by simplifying retail transactions, one must remember that it is also simplifying stealing your money! Some of the latest smartphones are provided with Near Field Communications (NFC) to facilitate the reading and transmission of RFID data. This also gives a leeway to hackers who can spam your phone with a suitable malware such that they can scan your pocket for an RFID-enabled credit card, even through your wallet! Hackers can then use this data to clone your credit card even while your credit card lies safely inside your wallet.

7. Never Link Your Baby Monitor to Your Smartphone

We know how paranoid young parents can be about their baby’s safety when they leave them with their nannies. And the solution. Baby monitors. Better still? Linking the monitor feed to their smartphone! After all, extra vigilance is what can satiate their hyper-paranoia. However, there has been a spate of incidents recently where hackers hacked into baby monitors through the smartphone connected to it enabling them to keep a close eye on the family as and when they pleased.

A family in Washington learned their lesson the hard way when their baby monitor got hacked and the hacker spoke to their 3-year-old toddler through the monitor imitating his dad! And in another such incident, the hacker verbally abused the family through the baby monitor! Remember that your smartphone can be the easiest access point into your household. So, ensure that you have sound encryptions and password protections in place.

8. Just Downloaded a Flashlight App? Think Twice!

So your phone does not have an inbuilt flashlight app and you innocently downloaded one of the multiple options available on Play Store. It isn’t that big a deal, right? Only that researchers discovered 10 such flashlight apps available on Google Play Store that are spying on their users! Wish to delete that flashlight app on your phone right away? Well, you have all reasons too!

Maybe next time try noting the size of such spurious apps which can be as high as 1.2-5 MB whereas all that a flashlight app needs are just 72K. So why are they 10-50 times heavier than they should actually be? Because they can be used to spy on you! Once your phone is hacked, these apps can enable hackers to spy on you and thus get easy access to your contact lists and other sensitive data.

So the next time you feel the need to have some light, do remember the darkness a small ignorance can push you into! Make sure you read the privacy policy of such apps before downloading them.

9. Loaning Your Hotspot Can Attract Hackers Too!

We have all loaned our smartphone’s hotspot to our colleagues and friends at some point or the other. And now let’s deal with this. Most don’t even have their personal WiFi Hotspots password protected! Remember that this provides hackers the opportunity they wait to grab. Such open WiFi networks can be easily used by them to download and spread illicit materials. And when the cops come looking for the source, you know who would be under the scanner! Therefore, always ensure that your WiFi is password protected – be it at home or on your phone.

10. Avoid Connecting Your Smartphone to Public Charging Stations

The smartphone is the current generation’s go-to buddy, especially during travel. After all, the thrill of the conversations with random co-travelers has now been replaced by the practice of sitting in one corner with eyes fixed on the smartphone screen. Thus, it is not unusual to connect your smartphone to a public charging station at an airport or a shopping mall. Because yes, it is well understood that the present day smartphones devour battery like monsters.

However, such “free charging stations” may actually be doing you more harm than good! Researchers from a leading cyber security conference have arrived at the conclusion that plugging your phone into certain “malicious” ports may result in hackers infecting your phone with malware or virus, further enabling them to hack into your smartphone. Guess the next thing on your shopping list would be a portable battery or a power bank!

Texial – Cyber and Digital Forensic Lab

Smartphones have now become an inseparable part of our daily lives. One moment we can’t find it in our pocket or inside our bags, and we turn crazy! But remember, your smartphone may be something that you cannot seem to do without, but it is also the easiest platform for hackers to exploit as we often tend to take our personal cyber security for granted.

Remember to be SMART when using a SMARTphone and for the rest, you have Texial by your side. You may have taken all measures to strengthen your cyber security but cyber conmen are getting smarter too. Texial Lab is a cyber and digital forensic lab headquartered in Chennai and having their presence all over India. Equipped with the latest tools and technologies, their state-of-the-art digital forensic laboratory along with the acumen of their forensic experts specialized in cyber and digital forensics, ensures that no stone is left unturned in getting to the roots of a cyber crime.

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