Pam Dixon with the World Privacy Forum says she is on a mission to tell people that cell phones are easy prey. And that tying them to everything from banking to shopping to social media accounts just provides more ammunition.
"If I had like a billion dollars I would take out loads of TV ads about this and put up like a public service announcement page just to help people with this. It's that serious," says Dixon.
Cybersecurity giant McAfee tells us it currently has more than 26 million mobile malware samples.
Hackers use malware to secretly infect your phone with a virus when you click on a bogus ad, text or download a tainted app. And then they can potentially access data, including login information.
Blogger Amiyrah Martin panicked when her Twitter account was hacked. For her, social media is not only important, but it's also her income."I knew that any updates that were happening weren't from me, and I didn't really know what my next steps should be," she says.
She'll never know how it happened, but there is one possibility Martin never considered.
She had her cell phone number tied to her account. "I had my cell phone number connected to quite a few things, but I had no clue that, that was something so simple could be connected to someone being able to just hack," she insists.
While she doesn't know if her cell phone was the cause of the hack, Martin does want to be proactive about closing security gaps.
Dixon says, "Happily, there's a really great solution to this. It already exists. Use a VoIP number." A VoIP ( Voice over Internet Protocol) number is an Internet phone number. There are dozens to choose from. Some are free, others charge a one-time setup fee, and some charge a monthly fee. Some offer encryption.
Other safety steps:
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA), meaning two ways to confirm it's you when using an account--- such as a password plus something like biometrics (a fingerprint or facial recognition) or a special code only you'd have access to.
- Keep malware protection up-to-date.
- Some cell phone providers now offer extra security steps. Check your carrier for details.
- Dixon also suggests only giving your personal cell to family and close friends.
Another way hackers can get into your phone is through something called "social engineering." They gather basic info about you-- like name, email, last four of your Social Security number---possibly through a fake email scam and then call the cell phone company posing as you to get control of your phone. They can also hijack your SIM card. in both of these cases, you'd know quickly because you'd be locked out of your phone.
Martin says Twitter sent her security tips after she got hacked. Customer support suggested she change the email and password associated with the account, and they suggested she use a VoIP number.
She says she made all security changes and her account is back up and running smoothly. She says she has learned a lot about protecting herself, adding, "It's made me be a little bit more diligent about the information that I'm putting out there."