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Smartphones or Tracking Devices?

September 2, 2020David Duncan, Threat Mitigation Director at Redpoint Cybersecurity
Smartphones or Tracking Devices?

Smartphones are ubiquitous, contain volumes of private personal information, have built-in cameras and microphones, and can easily connect to the internet. While this makes them very convenient and useful for us, it also makes them an attractive target for cyber criminals. In some cases, a smartphone can act as a tracking device in the palm of your hand, everything an attacker needs to gain detailed information about you. New devices are continually being added to home and office Wi-Fi networks as thermostats, speakers, and even doorbells are starting to use Wi-Fi to connect to your home system. This hyper-connectivity creates a dense Wi-Fi signal that allows attackers to use an inexpensive, commercially available Wi-Fi receiver to turn these ambient signals into motion detectors, monitoring activity inside a building while remaining undetected. This type of attack, known as a “silent surveillance attack,” allows attackers to track your every move in near real time, which not only invades your privacy but also violates your physical security. Moreover, attackers are quickly adopting SMS malware injection to dupe unsuspecting victims into clicking a shortened link that promises money or some type of reward. Once clicked, the attacker can install spyware or key loggers to gather more information on the target and potentially harvest usernames and passwords to banks or email accounts to fully exploit the victim.  

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How to protect yourself:

Silent surveillance attack –

  • In the future, router manufacturers could implement a privacy feature that emits a “cover signal” that mixes with signals from connected devices to produce false signals and mask the users from anyone sniffing the Wi-Fi signatures.

SMS malware injection –

  • Users can minimize risk and exposure by never clicking a link from an unknown sender, even in SMS (instead, copy that link and send it a virus scanner like VirusTotal).
  • Install smartphone antivirus software in order to minimize exposure to malware that is accidentally executed on the device.
  • Install a VPN for your mobile device that will help to mask your IP while also encrypting your traffic while on an open (public) network, keeping your device and data secure.

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