Phone Hacking: A Worry for the Future or is the Threat just around the Corner?

These days everyone seems to be upgrading to the latest iPhone, Android or blackberry smartphone. In 2011 Microsoft Tag released statistics on mobile phone stating that of the 4 billion mobile phones in use around the world, 1.08 billion are smartphones. With many relying on their phone as their camera, alarm clock and gaming device, just to name a few; long gone are the days when a cell phone was used just to make a quick phone call. With more and more people depending on their phones, it begs the question, how long until phone hacking becomes semi-normal.

Weren’t hackers always criminals?

In present day 2012 a hacker is synonymous with a criminal; with viruses, the release of personal documents, and identity theft leading the list of threats. This is a far cry from 1983 when hackers where known to be ‘harmless pranksters.’ WindowsSecurity.com has a lengthy article on the history of computer hacking dating as far back as the early 60’s. To get an idea of the difference between a hacker in 1983 compared to one in the present day, here is an example of a typical hack

 In the early 80s hackers love to pull pranks. Joe College sits down at his dumb terminal to the University DEC 10 and decides to poke around the campus network.  Here’s Star Trek! Here’s Adventure! Zork! Hmm, what’s this program called Sex? He runs it. A message pops up: “Warning: playing with sex is hazardous. Are you sure you want to play? Y/N” Who can resist? With that “Y” the screen bursts into a display of ASCII characters, then up comes the message: “Proceeding to delete all files in this account.” Joe is weeping, cursing, jumping up and down. He gives the list files command. Nothing! Zilch! Nada! He runs to the sysadmin. They log back into his account but his files are all still there. A prank.

Mind you hacking hasn’t quite reached the level of the Matrix… although I would probably think twice about living in a simulated reality if I could do the signature Matrix 360 rotation.

Awesome!

We have seen examples time and time again where hackers release private celebrity photos, break into secured databases and steal personal information.

I can’t even keep track of the number of times Vanessa Hudgens has had racy photos released by a hacker

Virus Protection

It has become commonplace to have some sort of virus protection for your computer, especially when using a Windows based variety. And although there are plenty of free online virus protection services, Norton and McAfee still remain the most popular; with the University of Guelph offering a free version of McAfee virus scan to all faculty, staff and registered students. Despite the hefty $100 price tag I will admit that I, perhaps stupidly, have the mindset that you get what you pay for when it comes to virus protection. When my sister downloaded the free AVG, I kept blowing if off since I had my doubts that anything free off the internet would do much in terms of virus protection.

Although I have such a strong bias towards computer virus protection, it has never occurred to me to get any sort of virus protection on either my phone or my tablet. Although I will admit I’m not as phone obsessed as many of my friends, I’m the annoying friend who always leaves their phone in the other room when you’re waiting for a response. Albeit my phone is password protected, with the amount of web searching and app downloading/updating I’m surprised I haven’t heard of more phone hacks through my circle of friends.

Phone hacking is too far in the future for me to really care…right?

Unfortunately, with the phone hacking scandal in Great Britain last year, phone hacking seems to be looming right around the corner. To those who haven’t kept up with British news, the phone hacking scandal (or hackgate) involved many British newspapers who were all published by the newspaper division of News Corporation (a mass media co-corporation with divisions all over the world, in 2011 they had the second largest revenue of any media group but I digress…) Basically, several employees were accused of using unethical techniques to get the scoop for their stories including phone hacking and phone bribery. It isn’t surprising that these tactics were mostly used by entertainment reporters on celebrities, politicians and even members of the British Royals! Pierce Morgan was even accused at being part of this scandal!

Hide yo’ phones, hide yo’ tablets cause I be hackin’ e’rything out here!

There’s an app for that!

We all know virus protection is important and thankfully there are numerous virus protection apps available on the market

To name a few…

–           Avast

–           Dr. Web

–           F-Secure

Some of these apps are surprisingly effective, here is an exert of some data published by AV-test (full pdf file in the hyperlink) which compares the malware detection rate between different virus protection programs, with dark green being the most effective

In conclusion

Technology is rapidly evolving, in both the positive and the negative. As our reliance on technology increases, so does the potential for damage through hacks. Anti-virus software is important for all devices that use an internet connection and we should always be cautious with random clicking and downloads. Who knows, soon we may have fingerprint detection on our smart phones and voice activated passwords (something already proposed by Congressman Steve Isreal). To end this entry here are some more statistics released by Microsoft Tag (courtesy of digitalbuzzblog.com)

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