Every text message you send is susceptible to hacking. This also includes the baby photos you send over Facebook Messenger and every weird Snapchat you send to your best buddy.
The recent scandal over the leaked photos Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sent to his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez, has put a spotlight on smartphone security. While Bezos' lead investigator, Gavin de Becker, has said he does not believe the Amazon CEO's phone was hacked, the scandal nonetheless highlights the importance of keeping sensitive information on lockdown.
A phone is incredibly easy to hack and can leave you feeling embarrassed and compromised. Experts say until security measures improve, we’re all sitting ducks.
In many cases, simple precautions can prevent a breach, according to experts. “Most often this is done by someone leaving a phone around and someone conducting what equates to shoulder surfing to watch the person enter their PIN or password, or watch them drawing their secret pattern in the case of some Android devices,” Jason Dion, a Udemy security instructor and certified ethical hacker, told Fox News.
Mystery still swirls around the circumstances of how the images at the center of the Bezos scandal were leaked - de Becker reportedly believes it's possible a "government entity" obtained the text messages.
When we send texts, they remain on our phones, on the phone of the recipient and in the cloud. Bezos obviously might have protected his own phone – with a strong password and encryption, for example – but the receiving phone might have been easy to hack.
Experts say protecting your phone with a strong password is key. Will LaSala, director of security solutions at security firm OneSpan, says it is a good idea to use an entire sentence as a password. This makes the password stronger, harder to guess, and more problematic for hackers.
“When using a sentence as a strong password, typical password databases the hackers use do not have the space character and they are often easier to remember,” he says.
One interesting point highlighted by Dion is that we're in an age when any compromising photo or text message stored on any networked device could be compromised in seconds. Although it’s difficult, he said highly confidential images and texts should not be stored on any device that connects to the internet, as users are just asking for trouble.
“When things are in a digital format, they are subject to interception, redirection, and theft,” said Dion. “The encryption we use to protect our data are excellent today, but if and when quantum computing matures into a reality, all of our existing algorithms will be useless.”
Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate with Comparitech.com, says another common hack, especially with media personalities like Sanchez and famous entrepreneurs like Bezos, is to break into cloud storage archives. It’s all too common. You might have a strong password on your phone, but your iCloud or Google backup is still the name of your favorite animal.
Bischoff gave another tip for anyone worried about the issue.
Most of us use a time-out on our phones that locks the screen. That’s a great idea, but out of convenience, we set the timer 10 or 15 minutes. “Shortening this can prevent people from picking it up and using it when you look away for a few moments before it locks,” he said.
In the end, the trick is to pay attention to the details. Who has access to your phone? Do you have a complex password? Are you protected on the cloud?
Answering any or all of those questions could save you from becoming a phone hacking victim.