Your Voicemail Could Be Hacked
November 11, 2011
Vanessa here from AllClear ID. You probably heard about Rupert Murdoch and the voicemail-hacking scandal at his company that happened over the summer. However, it’s not just celebrities who are at risk. Breaking into anyone’s voice mailbox is easy.
It’s done through “caller ID spoofing,” an online service that makes a call appear to be coming from any phone number. Hackers can use it to access your voice mail messages by fooling the system into thinking the call is coming from your cellphone. If your mailbox isn’t protected by a password, which is fairly typical, a hacker and hear and even delete messages in your voice mailbox.
There are plenty of spoofing services, and they are actually legal, used by domestic-abuse victims who don’t want their calls traced and law officials operating undercover. They’re also easy to find on Google, charging $10 or so for an hour of call time.
Another problem is that companies, even cellphone carriers, have little security against spoofing. According to the Boston Globe, three of the four major cell phone companies (AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint) don’t require customers calling their voice mail to use a password. Security experts believe carriers should require a password every time a customer calls in to check their voice mail to help protect from hackers.
Furthering the risk, the New York Times reported that someone armed with just a little information about a person can gain access to the automated phone systems for Bank of America and Chase’s credit card holders. Once those systems recognize the phone number and the bits of personal information, they offer up the latest on the card holder’s debts, late payments and credit limits. Bank of America’s computer will even read off a list of dozens of recent charges.
What can you do to block the voice mail hackers from conducting credit card scams on you? Until banks tighten up their security, it’s up to you. The Times recommends not using a Chase or Bank of America card to charge items that people may have an interest in. Shred your card receipts to prevent hackers form gathering the data they need to call up your bank’s system. As for your cellphone, if you’re not a Verizon user, set up a voice mail password and use it every time you use your phone.