Cell Phone Security Ignoring Risk to Sensitive Calls

We've been hearing about all sorts of risks from cell phones for years now. Though the jury is out on whether we might be poisoning ourselves with radiation while we talk away on our cell phone,we can definitely keep ourselves safer by making our business calls and checking our messages while we are still in the parking lot, not on the freeway.


Now, as we are counting on our phones more than ever to keep us connected to our business through calls, texts, e-mail and the Web, we're leaving ourselves open to more risks-security risks that can compromise your company's information. The focus is usually on the risk to e-mails, text messages, contact lists -- text-based information stored in phones that would be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands. But what about all the conversations we hold?


This past week, ABI Research, on behalf of Cellcrypt, released a survey that reveals that the majority of large and medium businesses are failing to adequately protect themselves against the growing threat of mobile voice call interception, leaving them vulnerable to loss of sensitive and confidential corporate information.


The research shows that cell phones and e-mail are both used routinely to communicate confidential information, with 79 percent of organizations that discuss sensitive or confidential information over their cell phones doing so at least weekly and 51 percent daily. Yet, only 18 percent have explicit mobile voice call security solutions in place.


The growing problem was highlighted in August, Cellcrypt reported, when German hackers announced a project to create a code table that cracks the encryption of GSM mobile calls, used in 80 percent of the world's cell phone calls. This codebook is planned to be freely available within the next six months, and significantly lowers the bar for everyday hackers to crack GSM calls using only a high-end laptop.


"Effective e-mail security has become routine but our research shows most businesses do not apply anything like the same level of robust security to cell phone calls. Companies that do not respond are exposing themselves to attack," said Stan Schatt, Vice President and Practice Director, Healthcare and Security, ABI Research.

 

Smartphones are also vulnerable to virus attacks. Stig-Arne Kristoffersen wrote that viruses can attack cell phones, particularly through e-mail, because most phones aren't running anti-virus software, and hackers have tapped into that ignorance. The viruses cause the phone to make dozens or hundreds of calls, jacking up the phone bill.


"This is only the beginning as the cyber criminals have found out that it is very easier to take over your phone than your PC, as most have antivirus protection on the PC's but not on the cell phones," Kristoffersen wrote. "They have also found a very easy way to take money from the users as these services will be directed and used towards special phone services owned by the cyber criminals, and therefore will get easy income from the users."



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