Can Cell Phones Be Hacked?

By Noel Shankel

Cellphones have become a crucial part of our daily lives, allowing us to stay in contact, stay organized and stay active. However, much like a computer, a cellphone is susceptible to hackers. Once hacked, your cellphone may begin operating oddly. Cellphone hacking, however unlikely it may be, should be taken seriously.

The Odds

Security experts agree that while it is possible to hack a persons cellphone, it would require a sophisticated hacker to pull it off. Neel Mehta, a member of the IBM Internet Security Systems Division, says a hacker can send malware to a cellphone in the form of an audio clip or photo. Once either is opened, the cellphone would become corrupted and hacked. This process is similar to sending a virus to a computer in the form of an email link. Malware sent to a cellphone for hacking purposes is referred to as "snoopware."

Purpose

The main reason someone would hack your cellphone is to gain access to your personal information, including your contact numbers. Once your phone is corrupted, a hacker can listen to your incoming calls and voice messages, read your text messages, and gain access to your home address or bank account information if they are stored on your phone. If your phone has a camera, the hacker can control it from a remote location. The microphone on the cellphone can be controlled, and your batteries can drain. According to Paul Miller, managing director of mobile security at Symantec, this level of hacking is a "rare occurrence."

Never Say Never

In 2005, a virus known as Cabir began spreading around a Santa Monica, California, electronics store. A cellphone in the shop was the source of the virus. The Cabir virus spread using short-range networks and Bluetooth technology. Cabir can only affect phones operating Bluetooth technology, and then only if your phone is "visible" to other Bluetooth devices. According to Slate.com, bluesnarfing and bluebugging are two other types of hacks that can corrupt a Bluetooth-activated cellphone. Bluesnarfing allows hackers to obtain personal information by exploiting the weaknesses in your phone's security. Bluebugging gives a hacker the ability to execute files on your cellphone without your permission.

Prevention

Regardless of the likelihood, you should always take precautions against a possible hack when using your cellphone. If your cellphone battery begins to drain at a rapid rate, or if voice/text messages begin disappearing, your phone may be corrupted. Stop using that phone, and obtain a new one as soon as possible. Never open a file sent to you if you do not recognize the source. If you are asked repeatedly if you really want to open a file or attachment, don't do it. This is a sign of a corrupted file.