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Little-known ways hackers take over your phone, data and money
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Little-known ways hackers take over your phone, data and money

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Little-known ways hackers take over your phone, data and money

With hacking attacks and other cyber crime making the news almost on a daily basis, it’s time we realize that no place is safe. And if you think only computer users should be worried, you are in for an unpleasant surprise.

Even with Kaspersky Labs reporting an incredible 20-fold explosion in the theft of financial details from mobile devices, not many people realize just how open and vulnerable to hacking their cell phones are. Although there are many other ways hackers can hijack or spy on your device, in today’s article I’ll focus on less-known strategies that cyber criminals employ to take over your smartphone, your data and your money.

PayWave … your money goodbye

If you’re a gamer like me (or if you watch Conan O’Brien), you’ve probably heard about wildly popular futuristic sandbox game Watchdogs, where (among other things) you can steal other people’s credit card data simply by targeting them via an app on your cell phone. Well, that’s not science fiction anymore. The app with a similar functionality, NFCProxy, was demonstrated at the Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas in 2012. NFCProxy is capable of both reading and broadcasting data from contactless credit cards. (Cards at risk are branded with names like PayPass, Zip, payWave and ExpressPay by Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.) The attacker just needs to brush against the victim, without ever touching her, and let the RFID reader do the rest. The stolen data can then be used to make a purchase, just like this.

As if that wasn’t troubling enough, apart from copying your credit card data, NFC (Near Field Communications Protocol) can also be used to take over your entire mobile device.

IPhone accelerometer keylogging

Georgia Tech computer scientists have found a way to make an Apple AAPL, +0.74% iPhone “eavesdrop” on your keyboard-based communications. To achieve that, they used iPhone’s accelerometer to detect minute vibrations caused by key presses. Using relative distance, their keylogger app was able to guess with 80% accuracy which keys were being pressed. Obviously, your iPhone needs to have their app installed for this to happen, and it needs to be near the keyboard. But wait until a newer app improves on that functionality.

Wi-Fi virus

Although this isn’t specifically a smartphone virus, it still affects mobile users. The interesting thing about this piece of malicious software is that it appears where it’s least expected: not on your device or on a web location. Instead, it infects your AP (access point), usually your home router. Once infected, the virus can do undesirable things, such as collect and transmit the credentials of other Wi-Fi users who connect to the infected AP.


After installing malware on your rooted or jailbroken mobile device, an attacker can access logs where you touched the screen. Using this data, the attacker can easily read your text messages, passwords and more, simply by looking for your on-screen keyboard presses.

Joining hacker’s Wi-Fi network

Our mobile phones are usually all too eager to automatically join previously accessed Wi-Fi networks. In this attack, a hacker forges the name of his Wi-Fi network into a familiar name, like “Starbucks” or “attwifi,” which tricks your phone into thinking it is a known network. After the victim’s phone automatically connects to the network, the attacker proceeds with the intrusion, modifying the content on the device, all without alerting the owner.

Bogus cell-phone tower hack

Security researcher Chris Paget has created a cell-phone base station that mimics more expensive devices already used by intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. It tricks cell phones into routing their outbound calls through his device, allowing someone to intercept calls.

The device tricks the phones into disabling encryption, and records call details and content before they’re routed on their proper way.

Little-known ways hackers take over your phone, data and money - MarketWatch

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