For as long as we’ve had our current phone numbers – which for a lot of us is since we got our first mobile phone contract – we’ve been signing up to websites and services using this piece of personal information. If someone gets hold of our phone number, can it be used to hack our phones? Let’s look into it…
In a world where the importance of cybersecurity grows parallel with technological advancements, we need to remember to keep an eye on the smaller details – like our phone numbers.
Assuming you’ve implemented strong passwords and two-factor authentication on every account you have that enables it, do you still believe your accounts are fully secure? While you have taken some excellent steps, there is still a lot more to be done.
You may believe that your National Insurance or bank account numbers are the most important numbers in your life. Bad news, as fraudsters may now inflict significantly more damage with far less effort by simply using your cell phone number
The problem is, unlike your bank account details, you are significantly less likely to conceal your mobile phone number since it needs to be shared for there to be much point in you even owning a phone.
Can A Phone Number Be Hacked?
Hackers and cybercriminals see great value in your cell phone number, which they can use to cause significant harm with minimal effort.
You constantly utilise your cell phone number. You enter it to join up for websites and services and even use it to register with games and apps on your phone. If you forget your password, your phone number can be used to reset your account. You even use it for two-factor authentication when logging into your accounts.
If your phone number becomes compromised, the individual with that information can now pose as you in a number of situations and circumstances. A hacker can start stealing your accounts one by one by having a password reset issued to your phone using your phone number.
Hackers can fool automated systems, including your bank, into thinking they’re you. Moreover, they could use your stolen phone number to access your business email and confidential files, possibly exposing your organisation to data theft.
Sit back and think about every website and service that possesses your phone number. All those websites and services you’ve signed up with since you’ve had that particular number. This is why it is imperative to safeguard your phone number to the best of your ability.
What Can Hackers Do With Your Phone Number?
Unless you’re a high-profile individual, it’s only really the money in your bank account, savings accounts and investment funds that the hackers will be after.
A maliciously intent person may get into your social media, email accounts and more with just your phone number and a little bit of what’s known as “social engineering,” in which a criminal doesn’t require technical skills but just the ability to convince a customer support agent that they are undoubtedly you.
Hackers have been stealing money, blackmailing victims with sensitive information, seizing social media accounts and exposing their targets, or gaining access to confidential papers such as passport details and company tax returns.
With a few more personal details alongside your phone number, which can be attained by simply going through your recycling bin, fraudsters can convince your network’s customer service that they are you and that they want to have the phone number moved to their device.
Now, that cybercriminal can reset all your passwords and have the confirmation and 2FA pins and passcodes sent straight to their device. They can now even get into your bank account.
What Else Hackers Can Do With Your Digits
It probably won’t happen to you, unless your ex is still seriously clinging on, but hackers, or in this case “Spys”, that have your cell phone number in their possession can use it for surveillance.
Simply by sending you a text containing a hyperlink, they can access all of the data within your phone, such as texts, emails, details of contacts, sensitive information and even stored passwords.
Hackers can also access your social media accounts and pose as you, as seen when your uncle has posted something strange on Facebook or when a celebrity posts something out of character on Twitter.
How To Prevent Your Phone Number From Being Hacked
You can implement an additional passcode to your mobile phone account in the same way that you can add two-factor authentication to your other online accounts.
You can contact customer care by phone or online and request that customer support install a backup password on your account to ensure that only yourself – the account holder — can modify the account or transfer your number to another SIM card.
Secondary security credentials are handled differently by each carrier. Your password, passcode, or passphrase may be limited, but try to make it longer than four to six numbers. Also, create a copy of the code for safekeeping, but store it safely, of course.
How To Protect Your Other Online Accounts
As protecting your phone number, your passwords, and all other sensitive pieces of information are equally as important, here are a few ways you can protect your other online accounts in addition to the aforementioned two-factor authentication method:
- Create complex passwords – passwords shouldn’t really even be real words at this point. Try using a random combination of lower case letters, upper case letters, numbers and special characters and writing it down somewhere safe, or, use a Google recommended pass or an app like LastPass.
- Don’t use real answers to security questions – I know, it’s more information to have to remember this way, but it’s a surefire way to protect your security question answers. Make up your answers but maybe follow a pattern so that you can figure it out each time, too.
- Use biometric authentication where available – a hacker can’t get into any accounts that are protected by your fingerprint or facial recognition, so always use these instead of a password where possible. Saying this, I still find it strange that sometimes an account will ask you to enter your password instead of your fingerprint for security reasons. I’m looking at you, Barclays.