Secure Your Voicemail

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Phone hacking — It’s not just for big news organizations.

Recent news has shed light on some phone security issues here in our own back yard. A British news organization is being accused of hacking into voicemail accounts to get tips and leads on big stories involving celebrities, politicians, and members of British royalty.

This is a great time to focus on how to secure our voicemail. Let’s look at what hackers might do to gain access to your voicemail messages, and how you can stay protected.

Hackers may work in pairs to get into your voicemail. One of them will call you, while the other one simultaneously calls and gets your voicemail. They will be able to simply press the “*” key to have access to your voicemail settings. If those settings aren’t protected with a secure PIN, say goodbye to privacy.

Call your own cell phone number (from another phone) and try to access your voicemail. If you aren’t asked for a PIN, call your provider to find out why.

Another way hackers have been able to access private voicemail is by pretending to call the voicemail system from your phone. They use software to fake the incoming number, tricking the voicemail service into thinking you are calling from your phone. Again, if there is no PIN verification at this point, your messages will be readily available for consumption.

Be sure to set up a PIN that will be required whenever you access your voicemail. Otherwise, just about anyone can get into your data.

No matter how the hackers get to your voicemail, they will usually need a PIN (personal identification number) to access the data. Many times, they will use the default PIN provided by the phone company. This information is widely available online.

Hackers also use social engineering to determine your PIN number. This could be checking your Facebook page or blog to garner personal information that might clue them into your PIN.

Never keep the default PIN for your phone (or anything else, for that matter). Change it to something that you will remember, but that isn’t easily deciphered. In other words, please don’t use your birthday or street address as your PIN.

There’s really only one way to ensure that you won’t be hacked ... don’t become part of the British Royal Family. All kidding aside, it is important for all of us to follow good phone security practices. Hackers can get little pieces of information that could eventually lead them to bank accounts, employment information, and other personal information.

That’s the stuff we’re good at — protecting your data. If you’re looking for a spot of afternoon tea or commentary on Kate Middleton’s dress ... well, you’ll probably have to call someone else.

Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC and CEO of “The Computer Guys USA, Inc.” with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.

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