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Friday
Jul222011

Consumers Make Cellphone Hacking Easy

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The phone hacking scandal that led to the demise of News of the World and put News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch in the hot seat highlights just how easy it is for predators to break into cellphones.

Your phone can be hacked two ways: "hacking into your cellphone as you're on the phone or hacking into your voicemail," says Mark Rasch, director of cybersecurity and privacy consulting at Computer Sciences Corp.

The first method -- breaking into your phone while you're talking on it -- is difficult, says Rasch.  A hacker would need to hack into your cellphone provider or corrupt an employee who works for the company to listen in on a conversation.

The second method -- breaking into your voicemail -- is not so tough.  It involves installing a program that would allow the hacker to capture and intercept phone calls.

"It is very easy to do, and that's typically because voicemail is secured with a short four digit number.  It can be hacked, spoofed, guessed and social engineered," says Rasch.

What makes it so easy?  Blame yourself.  Most people choose simplistic passwords that are easy for hackers to guess.

"The most common pass code is the last four digits of your phone number," says Rasch.

"People want something easy to remember and easy to type at 75 miles per hour with a cup of coffee in the hand and the cellphone in the other," says Rasch. "They'll pick the same pin number for ATM, cellphone and a dozen other things.  It's just human nature."

To avoid these pitfalls, some say passwords should be automated or randomly selected.

"You shouldn't be able to pick your password or pass code," says Daniel Amitay, an iPhone developer.  "It should be randomized.  The problem with pass codes and passwords is people pick them."

All eyes have been trained on News Corp. in recent weeks, following allegations that the now-defunct News of the World hacked the phones of more than 4,000 politicians, crime victims and celebrities.

But at the center of the firestorm was Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old murder victim whose cell phone was hacked by journalists on the hunt for a big scoop.  When the teenager disappeared in early 2002, reporters allegedly listened to the dead girl's voicemail and deleted messages on the system, tainting the investigation and creating false hope among the victim's family members that she might still be alive.

While it's unclear exactly how the reporters gained access to Milly Dowler's voicemail, one lesson emerges: it wasn't too hard.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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    Consumers Make Cellphone Hacking Easy - Business News - ABC News Radio

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