Christina Ortiz-Dixon

May 22nd 2018

How Phone Hacking Works and How to Prevent It


Smartphones are arguably one of the most convenient inventions of the 21st century. We can make phone calls, browse the internet, bank online and post to social media, all from one device. Unfortunately, smartphones can also be a data goldmine for hackers. Last year, Engadget reported on T-Mobile’s reveal to customers that a bug in their system allowed hackers access to their email addresses, accounts and personal information.

So, is your device safe? Do you know how phone hacking works or how to prevent hacking?

How Phone Hacking Works

When T-Mobile discovered that they had a bug that allowed hackers to steal customer information — including International Mobile Subscriber Identity numbers — they were able to stop it before it caused too much damage. This attack, however, perfectly illustrates how easily hackers can steal information.

Motherboard warned that once hackers have International Mobile Subscriber Identity numbers, they can track the locations of their victims or intercept phone calls.

SIM cards are also targeted by hackers, Motherboard noted, allowing them to steal a customer’s phone number and take control of their identity.

Be Vigilant in Public Spaces

Unsecured Wi-Fi is an easy target for hackers, according to the Harvard Business Review. Free internet access may come at a cost when visiting airports or cafes. The data shared over these unsecured networks is just that — unsecured and unencrypted. All it takes is for someone to exploit a flaw in the network to gain access to browsing behaviors, account logins and even transactions made over that connection.

As far as remote attacks go, apps seem to be the most efficient way of hacking into mobile devices. The seemingly endless quantity of apps available means that it’s impossible for companies to root through the coding of every single one to ensure that they are safe. This means that malicious coding that steals data could live in those apps. Wired explained that hackers can use malware to trick users into downloading seemingly harmless apps, which gives them access to the phone’s operating system.

How to Prevent Hacking

While the attacks themselves now outpace safeguarding capabilities, there are preventative measures users can take to protect themselves.

Cell phone providers, such as Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, allow users to create a password specifically when calling customer support, which could effectively deter hackers from stealing phone numbers, per Motherboard.

Additionally, passwords should be different for each phone app; password management systems like LastPass can help create encrypted passwords. Users can also install security features like two-step verification and biometrics to gain access to their phones.

Adapting to an Ever-Hackable World

Hacking has evolved into the new blackmail. While the threat is very real and dangerous, there are ways to prevent it and recover.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to a preventable attack — install security features like two-factor authentication, be wary of public Wi-Fi networks and implement encrypted passwords.