Smartphone hackers posing invisible threat

Smartphone hackers posing invisible threat

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by Randy Neves

kgw.com

Posted on May 11, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Updated Thursday, May 12 at 7:24 AM

PORTLAND -- Your smartphone is getting smarter every day. But the FBI says all that functionality could make you more vulnerable.

"The public doesn't realize the power they're holding in their hands," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Alan Peters. Smartphones, he said, are evolving into extensions of their users. "They have eyes and ears in their hand that can be exploited. It's intruding into their lives if it's not handled properly."

Peters says with built-in GPS, front and back cameras, audio recording equipment, and with all that sensitive data on-board, smartphones are now portals for hackers into our waking lives.

"To everything that you have, that you do, that you see throughout your day," said Peters. "It is tracking where they are. It could be tracking what they're eating. It tracks and monitors their activities and they're allowing themselves to be tracked."

Portland tech security expert Ken Westin says hackers are just beginning to hone their skills against smartphones.

"It's not something that's very easy for someone to implement."

Some are posting their exploits on the Internet, bragging about sending a Trojan text messages to a user or setting up fake cell towers or fake WiFi hotspots to hack into someone's phone.

He says a sophisticated hacker can set traps for unsuspecting smartphone users and use easily obtained information about them through their social media participation.

All hackers may need is a name, a phone number, location and/or whatever a Google search will reveal about a person.

"Every time someone would log into Facebook on their network I would be able to then hijack their session and get into their Facebook profiles," said Westin, demonstrating how easy it is to set up a fake but convincing WiFi network.

Westin's security products help protect clients around the globe against lost or stolen phones. As for hacking threats, the FBI expects that will become a serious issue unless smartphone users learn to protect themselves.

"Never store passwords or very important information on your cell phone, social security numbers, dates of birth," said Peters. "You can remove GPS tracking from all your applications," he added, pointing out that some mobile apps seek to acquire your location unnecessarily.

Other tips: Don't explore suspicious text messages. Connect only to known or password protected WiFi hotspots.

Turn your smartphone off when you don't need it.

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