How Safe is Your Smartphone from Hackers?

Your smartphone may be at risk of being hacked even while you are charging it at the airport or replacing its broken screen.

Posted on 11/7/18
By Kate Harveston | ViewsWeek Contributor
(Photo by janeb13, CCL)
(Photo by janeb13, CCL)

Smartphones are increasingly prevalent in today’s society because people have gotten used to the abilities of these powerful gadgets to browse websites, engage in video conferences with individuals in other countries, text their friends, do shopping, pay bills and run your bank account as well as make calls. However, when you think about your biggest fear associated with smartphones, it’s probably that you might lose yours during an evening out or have it stolen.


As you’ll see from the information below, there are much more impactful risks associated with smartphone use. Some even compromise security at the international level.


Your Data Can Be Compromised Via a USB Connection

Plugging your smartphone into a charging station at an airport while waiting to board a flight seems like not only a harmless action, but a welcome convenience that saves you from dealing with a nearly dead phone before landing. However, researchers from Kaspersky Labs, a global security firm, found that phones connected to USB ports transfer unique identifying information, such as serial numbers, to computers offering charging capabilities.


Previous experiences from other firms revealed it was possible to load smartphones with malware through such connections, or at least discover the types of phones people had, which gathered information that aided hackers in planned attacks. The exchange of data between a smartphone and charging station computer usually happens automatically, so you may not be able to indicate you don’t agree to share it or even realize what’s occurring.


Hackers Can Break Into Your Phone in Less Than a Minute

Studies show that today’s smartphone users are incredibly dependent on their gadgets, checking them repeatedly throughout the day and often shortly after waking up or just before going to bed. This heavy reliance makes smartphones an appealing target for hackers. With the right equipment, they can gain access to them in less than a minute and see all the contents or transfer harmful material to devices.


Most developed companies nowadays have extensive cybersecurity measures in place to protect their information and assets. In fact, about 91% of businesses currently follow a risk-based cybersecurity framework, meaning that their security process has evolved beyond the traditional compliance-based approach that only offers a minimum level of protection. However, cybercriminals evolve with the times, and they know they can find other easier ways to access the information that companies are working so hard to protect.


Consider how dangerous that could be if you had unprotected corporate data on your phone. Such sensitive information is even retrievable after the smartphone undergoes a factory reset process, provided that the person attempting to do so has equipment typically used by forensics teams — that’s also available to the public.


Besides the fact your phone could be compromised through Wi-Fi interceptions, malicious code and other kinds of extensive attacks, cybercriminals know many people are too busy to update their phones with the latest security patches and may have automatic upgrades disabled. Don’t confirm their suspicions by procrastinating about keeping your phone secured.


Replacement Parts Represent an Emerging Global Security Risk

Because people use smartphones so often, parts of the devices, such as the screens, are prone to cracking or wearing out. When that happens, rather than investing in new phones, people take the broken tech to third-party repair shops, often lured by promises of the best prices in the area and quick turnaround times.


However, according to researchers at an Israeli university, the associated replacement parts are at risk for being tampered with by hackers before they reach people’s phones. The scientists presented their findings and cited research that indicated 50 percent of smartphone users have damaged their phone at least one time. Additionally, 21 percent of smartphone users currently have a shattered or cracked screen on the phone they’re using.


Although it’s possible to go to authorized retailers and receive parts that come directly from the original manufacturers, third-party repair shops are much easier to find. They may rely on promotional deals to remain competitive, too.


The Israeli team asserted that “attacks by malicious peripherals are feasible, scalable, and invisible to most detection techniques.” And indeed, most customers of repair providers are so excited at the prospect of having phones with restored functionality that they don’t even think about possible security risks.


In closing, remember that hackers don’t always only target smartphone users who reside in their own countries. Robust technologies used for illegal purposes give cybercriminals a wide reach. After obtaining data, hackers might rely on it for their benefits or sell it to people on the black market. Theoretically then, even if your phone gets targeted for an attack somewhere locally, like your workplace, the ramifications can have a worldwide impact depending on outcomes.


Kate Harveston is a political commentator and blogger. She blogs at

She is a regular contributor to ViewsWeek. 

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