A friend calls you to go out for drinks this evening, but the voice on the other end of the line isn’t you. Your friend double-checks the number. He’s not mistaken. You’ve become one of the countless individuals who have their phone number stolen by cyberjackers every year.
If this hasn’t happened to you, that’s great. But phone number hacking can strike almost anybody. Here’s how you can reduce your chances of becoming the next victim.
1: Avoid Text-Based 2FA If Possible
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a time-limited code requirement to a traditional username and password, and it’s vitally important for securing account access.
Although many institutions allow 2FA through a third-party One Time Password (OTP) generator like Google Authenticator, some continue to send 2FA codes over SMS, or rather, text message. SMS is a relatively insecure communication medium, and encryption is not guaranteed.
2FA messages can also contain account recovery information or other text that makes it possible to identify the account holder. If these packets are sniffed with some custom (and illegal) firmware, the cybercriminal could easily gain access to your account. Once there, the contact number can be changed—effectively locking you out of your own user area.
2: Use Caution When Choosing Apps and Use An Internet Security App
Your phone’s operating system contains all the information that hackers need to remotely clone your SIM card, including your cellphone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, its International Mobile Subscriber Identifier (IMSI) number, and an authentication key.
Therefore, only install apps that you really need; even Google Play Store’s built-in protection has let trojans slip through as apps.
Make sure the app creator is a reputable company by checking the app’s reviews. If your device supports it, you should install a dedicated mobile antivirus to make sure that malware isn’t leaking your identity and cell phone details.
3: Don’t Leave Your Device Unattended
Attempting to remotely clone a SIM card is difficult, even for the most skilled hacker. Cloning a SIM card once you have access to the physical card, however, can be done in under fifteen minutes. All they need is a SIM reader and writer which can be bought cheaply online for “phone cloning” to intercept texts and phone calls.
4: Secure Your Other Digital Assets with An Antivirus
“Phone porting” is another way in which hackers can take over your number. This is a phishing exploit since criminals call up your cellular provider, impersonate you, and port your number to another handset.
Typically, they will need to verify your information, including providing a Social Security Number (SSN) or other sensitive detail.
Therefore, it’s important to take cybersecurity and antivirus software seriously across all your devices and be mindful about where you post your cell phone number online. Using a keylogger to intercept a credit card number on your computer, the hacker can verify last four card digits on your cellular account. Then your cell phone number falls into somebody else’s hands.
5: Set a Passcode and Enable Automatic Updates
The last two security measures are so simple that there’s no excuse for not using them.
Whether your device runs Android or iOS, you should always enable automatic security updates to install any vulnerability patches. Also, set a passcode for your device (check under the “security” settings) to make it difficult for a criminal to steal information if your phone is lost or stolen.