Lorrie Cranor, Chief Technologist of the FTC on How to Safeguard Your Smart Phone

Lorrie Cranor, Chief Technologist of the FTC on How to Safeguard Your Smart Phone

Statistically, there’s a good chance you’re getting a new smartphone for Christmas. And now days, if you had to, you could run a small business right from your phone. However most people use their smartphones for day-to-day tasks like replying to email (i.e. Gmail, yahoo mail, etc.); checking social media (i.e. facebook, twitter, etc) and staying organized with Apps like online calendars, DropBox and Evernote. But it’s turning out that using your smartphone at all could lead to being taken advantage of by people that make a living from gaining access to your identity through your smartphone––information that is used to verify that you are in fact you.

Few people realize just how vulnerable cell phones are. A phone can be breached using as simple of a thing as a CCSS 7 (or common channel signaling system no.7) through your very phone number.

But there are steps you can take to make sure this doesn’t happen. It’s not difficult to protect your information if you know a few tricks. Here are a few suggestions from Lorrie Cranor, Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission on how to protect your personal info and your cell phone.

1.) Put a passcode on the phone account. Yes, add a passcode to your account with the cellular carrier. Don’t make this the only thing you do, but it is the most basic thing that you can do to make your account more secure. And many people forget to do this. When a representative doesn’t ask for a passcode but instead asks for your address, last four of your social, or any of the other common requested verifying info, a smart cellphone thief can steal your account –or worse, your identity.

2.) Disable online access to your account. Now, this may seem like a big headache as now you will have to call or show up to a store to change account info, but it’s miles better than having your account hacked via the internet. You want to be eliminating as many ways as possible for your attacker to gain access to your cellphone data. After implementing these two barriers most identity thiefs will lose interest.

3.) Require photo ID on file.  Even the Chief Technologist of the FTC wasn’t immune to someone waltzing into a mobile store and buying phones using her information ––all because her require photo ID wasn’t in the system. Next time you’re at your cell store, ask to put your “Require photo ID” on file so when anyone walks into a store, they must verify that they are the “Lorrie Cranor” with your address. Now, not only does somebody need to show up in person but they need to show up with your photo ID in order to purchase new phones and service.

There are other things that can be done to protect yourself from becoming compromised via your cell phone number like encrypting (android/Iphone) your phone completely so that your number can’t be taken advantage of in the first place. Iphone has encrypted messaging as well as Facebook. Their services don’t go through the CCSS 7 towers so it’s harder to get a hold of your number this way. Your phone calls can be taken over data instead of through the towers as well.  Also, check up on the apps you are downloading; make sure to read the fine print as there are malware apps that are made just to invite hackers into your phone. There is no perfect system to protect yourself but you can make it harder on people to get to your information.

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