How to stop your phone being hacked – and why it was easy to do in the noughties

Ashley Norris Tech

PhoneHacking_CarouselLge_Apr28.jpgDid you know that you can access the voicemail of your mobile from another phone? Well after the revelations about phone hacking over the last few months most people do now. But for many people it came as a shock to find out that accessing phone messages in this way was possible at all.

However anyone who travels a lot on business will probably know all about remote voicemail. They are most likely to use it when traveling outside the UK to retrieve their messages. Basically the standard voicemail numbers (901 etc) don’t tend to work outside the UK, so users need to ring a longer number and then input a code. I remember doing this countless times seven or eight years ago.

Back in the early noughties, when phone hacking was at its height, it was very easy to access other people’s voicemails. This was because simple to guess default pins (0000) tended to be offered by the networks and human nature being what it is meant that many people didn’t change those pins. I certainly didn’t. Today it is a bit trickier to hack a phone and it is nigh on impossible if you follow these instructions.

1 Make sure you have a dedicated pin number for voicemail – Over the last few years mobile networks have got a bit more savvy about this and some have insisted people create their own pin numbers – this inevitably makes voicemail more secure. If you have a default number contact your network provider and change it. In fact if you are really concerned about it change the number on a regular basis.

2 Make sure you keep your personal details private – Putting your address, phone etc on the Internet gives hackers a chance to find out more about you. If they start finding out details like your mother’s maiden, where you were born, favourite football team, name of your dog etc then they could in theory hackers could have enough information about you to start convincing networks that they are you and can hear your messages.

3 Don’t take it for granted that no one will want to hear your messages. You might not be a soap star, politician, footballer or crime victim, but there maybe someone lurking in your past who would love to find out more about your messages.

Ultimately though hacking voicemails is much rarer these days. Real hackers are almost certainly more interested in your email.

By Ashley Norris | July 8th, 2011

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