Protecting the data contained in the cell phone is a frequent concern, as the devices accumulate important information, such as bank details, personal activity records, photos and intimate conversations. Currently, malicious people can use different devices to gain access to this data, either through stalkerwares, cloning messaging apps like WhatsApp, or hacking the Wi-Fi network.
READ: Spy app that clones WhatsApp has already claimed 8 million victims; take cover
The exposed data can be used for different purposes, from sending unauthorized targeted advertising to extortion and theft of money. Based on this, the dnetc prepared a list of five ways to spy on cell phones and important security tips to protect yourself and keep your data safe on Android and iPhone (iOS).
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1. Stalkerware and spy apps in general
Spy apps, called spyware or stalkerwares, are installed on the victim’s cell phone without their knowledge in order to track all of their activities. Criminals can access the device’s location history, SMS messages and social media conversations, and even audio and video recorded with the phone’s microphone and camera, without the user noticing. In addition to being used by crooks, these applications are also commonly used by controlling relatives and jealous partners who want to be fully vigilant in their spouse’s life.
Although these applications act silently on the smartphone, since they are installed in a disguised way on the system, it is possible to find out if the phone is being monitored. Among the signs of intrusion are high consumption of mobile data, sending and receiving unknown messages, decreased battery life, unexpected on-screen advertising and the appearance of noises and voices during telephone calls.
To prevent an invasion, you must use secure passwords, avoid leaving your phone unlocked with other people unsupervised, blocking the installation of applications from external sources and keeping your smartphone’s antivirus up to date.
One of the most common ways of attempting cell phone fraud is cloning WhatsApp. In this method, the crooks use the verification code sent by the messenger to the user to gain access to the conversations. Usually, the victim relinquishes this numbering through lies involving sales advertisements on the web. With the code in hand, criminals have access to all of the user’s conversations and usually get in touch with recent contacts to ask for money, posing as the victim.
Millions of Brazilians have already been victims of WhatsApp cloning across Brazil – Photo: Anna Kellen Bull / dnetc
To protect yourself, be on the lookout for strange activities in your account, check active WhatsApp Web sessions frequently in the app settings, avoid using «powered» versions of the messenger, such as GB WhatsApp, and enable two-step verification in the app.
If your WhatsApp has been hacked, contact the operator to request the suspension of the phone line and try to transfer the number to another chip. It is also necessary to send an email to WhatsApp support ([email protected]) to request the blocking of the cloned account until you are able to recover it.
3. Give apps excessive permissions
It is common for applications to ask for permission to perform various activities on the cell phone during use. However, some people act on impulse and end up granting access to information even without reading what the app just requested, opening a gap for the exposure of sensitive data. Among the requested concessions are the user’s location, access to photos and audio recording through the cell phone’s microphone or videos using the camera.
Be wary if an application requests something it doesn’t need to perform its functions. A photo editing application, for example, does not need to have access to your location, which can raise suspicions about the interests of that app. If you want to check which software has these permissions, access the system settings to revoke access to this data.
4. Use suspicious public Wi-Fi network
Several establishments offer free Wi-Fi, such as hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and airports. However, you need to be aware of these connections, as they are more exposed than a home network. Whenever possible, prefer to use the 3G or 4G network when you are away from home, especially if you are going to use bank applications or carry out bank transactions in the browser, as public wireless connections can be fragile in terms of security, especially when they do not have a password. While it is possible for thieves to break into the mobile network, it will not be as easy as on Wi-Fi.
Mobile banking applications are safe, but you need to be careful – Photo: Rodrigo Fernandes / dnetc
If you want to use a public wireless connection, check the official name of the network with the establishment and be careful when filling out forms that release the signal. As much as this registration ensures that the network is reliable, you must be careful not to provide sensitive personal data unnecessarily.
5. Notifications on the lock screen
Receiving notifications on the phone’s screen outdoors can reveal sensitive information if the phone is in someone else’s hands. Even the device locked on a table can reveal personal data such as the bank used by the smartphone owner or even private chats in a messenger.
To avoid displaying this data, it is possible to limit the sending of notifications on the locked screen. Android allows you to disable all notifications or hide only the content of messages, so that the user is notified, but no one sees the details of the alert. The iPhone also allows the user to disable the display of features on the locked screen or just hide the content of notifications.