Cell Number Security

cyber-crime

Digital privacy goes hand-in-hand with digital security … and there’s an increasingly-used piece of information which you control which the bad guys are after … it’s your cell phone number. More and more they are being used by the bad guys as a way to personal information that’s kept by nearly all corporations, financial institutions, and, yes, social media networks.

Your cell phone number is a gateway to your identity. It provides an entrance to all the data contained on your phone, and can connect your other information to you – your email address, physical address—everything. In a company’s database, your phone number becomes another piece of personally identifying data. But unlike our Social Security numbers, the number is not regulated, and no companies are mandated to keep it private.

Mobile phone numbers them become a target for attackers. Most of us have gotten wise to phishing and email breaches. Now there is SMiShing (pronounced “smishing”) … the act of sending a text message containing questionable links to harmful websites. Once the bad guys get your credentials, they can log into your banking site as you. Then, we all know what can be done: Monies transferred. Checks written. Stocks sold.

Even seemingly innocuous requests like the one from a sales clerk can lead to trouble. The fact that they now have it means it could be hacked. Customer phone numbers have been stolen from Anthem, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Walgreens, and Yahoo.  

What you can do: 

  1. Use common sense: If you’re asked for your phone number, ask why.
  2. Get a virtual phone number: Google Voice gives you a free phone number for calling, text messaging, and voicemail. It works on smartphones and computers, and syncs across your devices so you can use the app while on the go or at home. Check out https://voice.google.com
  3. Enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication on all your devices:
  4. Sign up for the “do not call” lists, which are helpful for run-of-the-mill solicitations.
  5. Choose which private data you are willing to share: Maybe an email address, zip code or just your name as a way to identify you. It’s worth asking about with the person asking for data.

Got Privacy?

Best-VPN-ProviderMy guess is I’m not alone in not wanting another company (in this case, the big telecomm companies) profiting off of my personal data. Thanks to Congress, though, that door has been opened. Earlier this week the House of Representatives voted to reverse regulations that would have prevented internet service providers from selling personal web-browsing data without an individual’s explicit consent.

I’m already inundated with enough advertisements every time I go online, thank you very much. And I certainly don’t care that future ads will be “more tailored to my shopping habits” because my personal browsing data has been sold to the highest bidder. Call me repressed, but I don’t want someone buying data relating to the type, size and color of whatever I buy, and where and how frequently I make a purchase.

To help keep your private information private, you could start by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Lily Newman posted a great article in WIRED earlier this week with basic information about VPNs and their pros and cons.

In a nutshell:

– You need to confirm the VPN is trustworthy. Check whether or not they keep logs of user activity.

– Keep in mind that even this indicator isn’t foolproof. Scams are common, especially among mobile VPNs.

-Paying for a VPN will increase the likelihood of keeping your private data private.

– Choose, if you can, a small company. Using a VPN based in a different country helps too.

– Vet the company as best you can, do not rush to the first Google result.

– Downside to using a VPN: slower connections, and some services (like Netflix) no longer work on most VPNs.

Overall it was an informative and timely article, well worth the read. Should you choose to do so, you can find it here.