Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Could Your Cellphone Voice Mail be Hacked?

We are all watching the scandal about the British tabloid News of the World whose reporter hacked into the cellphone voice mail of a missing girl and deleted some of the messages while police were searching for the child. But have you considered the implications of hacking voice mail in cellphones? It means that it's dead easy to get into anybody's voice mail – unless they take a few precautions.

The Boston Globe has an article in today's paper by Hiawatha Bray, one of my tech heroes. The hack is done with a service anybody can find, called ID spoofing. Google it. It works like a pre-paid calling card or sometimes through a Web interface. You pay for a certain amount of time to have a PIN that represents to the telephone you are calling that you are calling from a different telephone number.

Spoofing can be used for legitimate purposes, as law enforcement sometimes uses it, or women fleeing from abusive situations have used this to conceal their location and phone number. But mostly, it is considered a malicious act, and bills have been introduced several times to outlaw the practice, beginning in 2006. Finally, in December, 2010, the Truth in Calling Actpassed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama, prohibiting spoofing “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value...” Law enforcement is specifically exempted. The penalties are fines, and enforcement is under state jurisdiction.

But the important part of the Globe article is to explain how to protect yourself from having your voice mail hacked. Here is the information: Protect your voice mail

The image is courtesy of Entrepreneur website, which actually has a very helpful post about protecting your cellphone, adding a paragraph about the viruses that are becoming so rampant in a lot of the apps that people are adding outside of the official sites. See

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