WRAL Investigates

Cell phone security: How safe is your information?

Posted November 19, 2009

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— These days, Americans are more connected than ever before. Many people never leave home without a cell phone. Experts warn that those who carry so-called "smart phones" may be unknowingly putting their personal information at risk.

Mobile devices with Internet access open users to the same security risks familiar to computer users. Someone can secretly tap into a phone and make calls or send texts billed to the account holder.

For years, experts have warned about computer security. Now, that same caution translates to the latest cell phones.

When it comes to cell phones, how safe is your information? How safe is your cell phone information?

Raleigh telecommunications expert Ben Levitan said security software hasn't yet caught up with the explosion in newer, more feature-laden phones.

“It’s basically the merging of computers and telephones,” he said. “All of a sudden we're finding out that people, just like computers, are attacking our phones."

Those attacks can come from benign sources.

“They're not malicious Web sites, but they can be used maliciously,” Levitan said.

For instance, many legitimate cell phone Web sites allow texts to be sent by using an online form. The forms typically do not verify that the person sending the text actually owns the phone.

Then, there's the matter of eavesdropping, which is sometimes made possible by malicious software, or malware, readily available online.

That same malware could also take advantage of the global positioning system, or GPS, feature on the phone to track a user's every move. A hacker need not have physical contact with your phone to do so.

Wiretapping is a federal crime. Levitan said it's fine to jump on the technology bandwagon, just beware that someone could try to outsmart your "smart phone."

There are ways to limit your vulnerability.

  • Don't accept a phone from someone you don't trust.
  • Beware of unknown downloads, such as pictures or applications, because they could contain malware.
  • If you're suspicious, take your phone to the cell provider to get it reflashed or reprogrammed.
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  • kcfoxie Nov 20, 2009

    @phpatriot77: Nature builds a better idiot. "freedom of choice" often means an off switch for the nagging security features because they "get in the way of my fun." Companies that take a hard line lose customers, and the market is profit - quantity not quality - driven.

  • phpatriot77 Nov 20, 2009

    It's amazing to me how we can make these great technilogical advances and yet fail to provide personnal security and safety measures before presenting them to the public! But, progress must go on despite the costs!

  • djcgriffin Nov 20, 2009

    lol @ ThisIsMyName

  • ThisIsMyName Nov 19, 2009

    I suppose Apple users will say the iPhone can't get a virus or malware... because it's an Apple product.