Just how easy is it to hack a mobile phone?

With news rumbling on that the phone tapping scandal may have been more widespread than initially thought, issues surrounding mobile security have been thrown into the headlines once again. So who’s at risk? How can you tell if you’ve been affected? What can you do to stay protected?

Before we can answer any of these questions, we need to look at exactly how this phone ‘tapping’ occurs. In the majority of the alleged cases we’ve seen reported, the term phone tapping actually refers to illegally accessing new or saved voicemails – and anyone who hasn’t changed their voicemail pin from the network default could be at risk.

Whilst the media report cases of celebrities or politicians who’ve been targeted, any individual or organisation who might receive potentially confidential information through voicemail inbox should take time to ensure they are protected.

There are a couple of tell-tale signs that might show if a phone has been affected. Firstly, if you receive a notification of new voicemail but when you dial in to listen to the message they’re all listed as ’old’ or ‘saved’ messages.

It has also been claimed that some tabloids have not only been listening to messages, but also deleting them to avoid rival publications getting hold of the same information, so disappearing voicemails can be a second potential sign that a third party may have been illegally accessing information.

In order to protect a voicemail inbox from being vulnerable to this kind of illegal remote access, it is vital to change the access pin from the network default. These defaults can be found with a simple Google search and that’s all that’s needed to tap into any voicemail.

Applications such as HulloMail and O2 Visual Voicemail can also add an extra level of protection by encrypting the bank of messages, removing them from the network and placing them directly on the mobile device itself.

It’s also important to note that mobile use across voice, SMS, email and data is continuing to increase and as such we are likely to see incidences of these kinds of threats continue to rise and also extend into new areas.

For example, with illegal, downloadable SMS-hacking software available online, it’s likely we’re going to see increasing attempts to remotely access text messages – something that the mobile network operators are already working to prevent.

Across these different aspects of mobile communication, we’re seeing the operator community extend solid multi-bearer protection across their networks to ensure users are protected as new threats continue to emerge.

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As VP of Business Development, Simeon Coney's responsibility is for the development and execution of AdaptiveMobile partnerships globally. Simeon has 18 years' experience within the mobile, fixed-line and IT infrastructure markets. Prior to joining AdaptiveMobile, Simeon provided strategic guidance and portfolio management to a range of FTSE 100 and US companies. His career started in product and service planning and launch at Nortel for fixed and mobile operators, moving to head up marketing and business development for Ceon - a provider of OSS/BSS for operators, and head of OSS for First Mark - a pan-European service provider.