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Your Phone is Vulnerable to Hacking as Well

Mark Edwards
28-08-2004

Just as we think we are starting to get a handle on PC security through antivirus software, firewalls, spam filters, password protocols etc, along comes phone hacking.



Many modern phones and most new laptops are equipped with Bluetooth short-range wireless capability. Bluetooth is a fairly young technology and its security leaves a lot to be desired. The theft of information from a wireless device through a Bluetooth connection is known as Bluesnarfing. Hackers have developed tools to enable them to compromise a frightening number of Bluetooth enabled phones.



These tools can let an attacker remotely download contact information from victims' address books, read their calendar appointments or peruse text messages on their phones.



An attacker could even plant their own text messages in a phone's memory, or turn the phone sitting in a victim's pocket or on a restaurant table top into a listening device to pick up private conversations in the phone's vicinity. Most types of attacks could be conducted without leaving a trace.



This hacking technology was demonstrated recently at a conference in Las Vegas. The same technology was used in a proof of concept demonstration to read the phone book and text messages from a phone almost 2 kilometres away.



A recent experiment in the London Underground during rush hour revealed that of the 336 Bluetooth phones detected almost 1 in 4 was vulnerable to attack.



The best defence against this weakness is to turn off Bluetooth though this is not possible with particular phones. At this stage, the phone companies are playing down the risks associated with this vulnerability though it is only a matter of time before the risk of hacking becomes serious.

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