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Tips for Keeping Your Cell Phone Safe from Hackers and Thieves

6/11/2007

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As the technology improves, we increasingly rely on our cell phones for more than just making calls; we’re using them to send emails, schedule meetings, and surf the internet. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that the downside of having a little computer in your pocket is that, just like with the computer on your desk, there are people out there ready, willing, and able to exploit it.

An estimated 600,000 cell phones will be reported lost or stolen this year. If your phone lands in the wrong hands, you’re not only saying goodbye to all your contacts but you’re potentially facing a very high phone bill. Some victims report having received bills for more than $25,000 after their phone was stolen.

Even if your phone never leaves your side, it’s still vulnerable to hackers—or phreakers as they’re called. Phreakers, by just walking past you, can hack into your cell phone and listen in on your calls or steal personal information without your knowledge. They do this by exploiting the short-range Bluetooth wireless connections between cell phones and hands-free headsets or PCs. Phreakers can also spread viruses through text messages, e-mails, and memory cards.

The BBB offers a number of simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your personal information.

Don’t lose it! Your best defense against thieves and hackers is to keep close tabs on your cell phone. If other people can’t get their hands on it, they’re going to have a much harder time trying to take advantage of it.

Contact your cell phone provider as soon as your cell phone is lost or you think it’s been hacked. If your cell phone is lost or stolen you’ll want to discontinue service immediately before the thief can run up a big bill. Check your provider’s policy because, while they may offer to cover charges if the phone is stolen, they are not required to and you could be held responsible.

Password protect your phone. Locking and password protecting your phone is just as important as having passwords on your computer.

Turn off your Bluetooth. Disabling your Bluetooth wireless connection when you’re not using it will significantly decrease a phreaker’s opportunity to wirelessly hack into your phone.

Download anti-virus software and keep it updated. New viruses are created every day, so it’s important to have anti-virus software on your cell phone—if it’s available for your model—and update it regularly.

Don’t accept files and text messages from strangers. You wouldn’t download an attachment to an email you received from a stranger to your PC. For the same reason you want to be very careful about opening unsolicited files and text messages on your cell phone.

The BBB has advice you can use on keeping up and keeping safe with emerging technology. For more tips and information go to www.bbb.org.

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