The News Corp phone hacking scandal was without a doubt one of the biggest global media events of 2011. While the Casey Anthony trial comprised much of the US news coverage, the News Corp scandal certainly occupied attention throughout much of the developed world, and with good reason. It was discovered that employees of News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, were hacking the mobile phones of everyone from celebrities to murder victims to get leads and stories and that their actions, in addition to invading privacy, may have even hampered police investigations. When it was found that employees had deleted voicemails on the phone of a missing person who later turned up deceased after a lengthy search, it became apparent that this hacking went far beyond violations of privacy.
While it would be easy to launch into the potential legal ramifications for those involved in these events, the issue that we are looking to address right now is one that millions of mobile phone users in the US are concerned with. What security concerns and precautions should we be looking at in light of these events, and what could be done to keep the same thing from happening to any of us? While most of us are unlikely to be hacked by a major media outlet, the notion of having our mobile privacy invaded by anyone is certainly cause for concern.
Companies like Apple are quick to note that all of the apps in their market are put through rigorous security testing and that their devices are equally secure. That leads many to question Android’s app market, however, where users are free to submit their own apps. But as security researchers are quick to point out, phone security is still in its infancy and all it really takes for someone to hack into most phones is a call pretending to be a representative of the phone company or even a “cracker”, an application that will automatically try different passwords until the one that nets access is found.
So, what can mobile users do to keep themselves better protected? Never give out your password to any “phone company representative” that calls you. If there is a genuine concern, call your phone company directly using a reliable number and ask to speak with a representative. As with the web, only choose passwords that are not easy to guess or figure out. Beyond this, it is largely up to lawmakers and phone and app manufacturers to help keep our phones safe from hackers, something that this scandal has certainly pushed to the front burner.