Protecting Your Company from Cell Phone Hackers

Wayne Rash
The latest attention on cell phone hacking has been focused on the huge scandal in the UK in which employees at publications belonging to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp hacked into the voice mail accounts of everyone from a kidnapped teen, to soldiers killed in Afghanistan, to the prime minister. Apparently, these people even hacked into the voice mail accounts of victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

But chances are it's not News Corp that's likely to be trying to listen to your employees' voice mail. More likely it's your competitors, maybe your business partners or most likely of all, criminals who want to use information contained in voice mails to extract information they can use to make money.

Fortunately, it's reasonably easy to make sure your devices are secure. The secret? Passwords.

Yes, I know that sounds simplistic. But the reason it was so easy to hack into so many of these voice mail accounts is because they either didn't have passwords or PIN codes, or they had passwords or PIN codes that were ridiculously easy to guess. Worse, in many cases, if the device lands into the hands of someone other than the authorized user, whoever gets it might not need a password or PIN at all.

Fortunately, the solution is easy. First, make device passwords or PINs mandatory. You can do this through your enterprise management software, through Microsoft Exchange or by requiring that users provide their phones to the IT department for setup before they can be used for company business.

Next, you need to require that strong passwords or PINs be set for voice mail access. You need to check to make sure that employees don't use the top 10 stupid passwords when they do this. eWEEK recently provided a list of passwords to avoid. You should also require that these PIN codes be changed on a regular basis. If your company owns the phones you may be able to enforce the rule through your management software.

Finally, you should require that passwords or PINs be enabled for any phone having access to company information. With some carriers, you can set the voice mail system to recognize the phone and not require a PIN when voice mail is called from the phone. If someone gains access to the phone, they effectively have unfettered access to company information.

Again, I know it sounds simplistic, but the events in the UK demonstrate that security does not appear to be a priority for phone users. The only way to protect your company is to make sure it becomes a priority.


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