There’s a spy in your pocket (or pocketbook or backpack). It’s so well camouflaged that you could stare directly at it and still not realize it’s there. Hiding in plain sight, as it were. In fact, if you are like most people according to a recent study, you rarely let this spy get out of arm’s reach. Are you sufficiently paranoid yet?
Turns out this spy is your mobile phone. It knows pretty much everywhere you go, how long you stay there, who you associate with, who your closest friends are, what you say to them, what you like and what you don’t like, what you’re in the market for and so on. It knows all this because it is the center of your digital life. Your social media accounts, your emails, your text messages, your phone calls, your photographs, your location, your purchases — all that and more are being tracked to one degree or another by Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and a host of others.
Maybe none of that bothers you — but maybe this would … what if all that info was available to your ex, your boss, a stalker or just some creep who figured out how to turn your phone into a video and audio surveillance device by planting software on it without your knowledge. With this, your voyeur can turn on the microphone on your phone and listen in to your conversations even when you aren’t on the phone and see you through the video camera and read your emails and texts and … you get the picture.
Pretty creepy, huh? Well, it’s not at all far-fetched. In fact, here’s commercially available tool that will do it for you (Note: I’ve redacted the name of the software because I’m not trying to advertise for it):
… and it’s far from the only option. Here’s an article from PC World that talks about malware that does the same:
This really isn’t a new concept as we’ve had malware on PCs that could do this for more than a decade. What has changed is that mobile phones contain so much more info about you and are so portable that they go everywhere with you — everywhere.
Mobile device anti-malware programs can help but that whole industry is still fairly immature so the capabilities haven’t really caught up with the threats just yet. Some of the best things you can do are:
- don’t download programs from places other than the authorized sources (Google Play, Apple App Store),
- don’t root your device (even though it’s awfully tempting to do so in order to get some extra goodies that the providers have been denying you) and,
- just as with PCs, don’t click on links unless you are expecting them and know where they are going to take you — regardless of who they appear to be coming from.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news and paranoia, but I figure it’s better you know because the bad guys already do…