Don’t Give Me Them Digits: Cyber criminals target mobile phone numbers

You’ve got a chip in your credit card. Your social security card’s locked away in a safe. Now cyber criminals are turning their attention to another number: your mobile phone number. Next time that creep at the bar asks for your digits, you may have more to worry over than turning down a date.

Why criminals are targeting mobile phones

As security around financial data tightens, hackers have set their sights on mobile numbers, which tick many of the same boxes as your social security or credit card combos:

  • It’s unique to you
  • It’s one of the most common pieces of info stored in databases
  • It’s a crucial step in identifying yourself to financial authorities

Criminals are using this information to take over accounts using a patchwork of personally identifying information gleaned from multiple databases. In 2016, over 160,000 mobile accounts were usurped according to studies conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research–a record high for fraudsters.

And the kicker? Losing control of your phone number creates logistical nightmares when it comes time to prove ownership in the aftermath of an attack. Many companies request to verify account ownership either over VoiP or SMS and if you are no longer in control of the phone line, proving your identity becomes a challenge outside the norms of account recovery.

How to prevent a mobile phone takeover

  • Distribute your number judiciously
  • Use a secondary or virtual phone number for account signups
  • Do not reuse passwords over multiple accounts
  • Avoid using public WiFi when accessing sensitive information
  • Use two-factor authentication where possible
  • Take advantage of mobile security platforms like Sophos Central Mobile Security

Learn about more cyber threats

Hungry for more insight into Internet threats? Check out the Threat Dictionary to learn about all of the latest network security threats.

Prefer to listen and learn? Check out Episode 5 of Ping: A Podcast where we talk cyber threats with SonicWall’s Daniel Kremers and Fortinet’s Douglas Santos.