America’s top spooks have shared their best advice for preventing others from accessing your smartphone and stealing your data – and it’s almost too easy.
US Senator Angus King is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the country’s spy agencies, including the CIA and NSA. Last year, his security detail filled him in on the best way to keep his work phone secure and he’s finally shared it with the world.
It’s got just two simple steps, the AP reported. “Step One: Turn off phone. Step Two: Turn it back on.” Turn off, turn on: Simple step can thwart top phone hackers
Yes, the IT Crowd was right – the humble reboot really can fix any tech issue. It works especially well when done regularly, the spies said: around once a week should do the trick.
Rebooting works because invaders often break into your phone using temporary memory hacks. Android and iOS usually have tough firewalls around core parts of their operating systems, so latching on to less-protected “in-memory payloads” is quicker and easier.
Luckily, turning your phone off and on again wipes all of these temporary files, including malicious ones. This means hackers have to work harder to swipe your data.
Security expert Patrick Wardle told AP: “Adversaries came to the realization they don’t need to persist. If they could do a one-time pull and exfiltrate all your chat messages and your contact and your passwords, it’s almost game over anyways, right?”
Protecting your phone is important even if you don’t think you have anything to hide. It is essentially a huge folder of sensitive information that you carry around at almost all times. Hackers could be after your location data, contacts, passwords and photos and could even secretly record you.
That’s true even if you haven’t done anything risky, like clicked on a spammy link or email. These days, sophisticated attackers are increasingly using exploits which don’t need you to take any actions at all. Scarily, these “zero-click” hacks can load a virus on your phone invisibly and with no warning.
The news comes a week after an incredibly powerful spyware called Pegasus was exposed. Researchers discovered the hacking software was silently infecting thousands of smartphones, taking over the camera and microphone to spy on conversations and phone calls. Many of its victims were leading politicians, journalists and activists who were targeted by spam WhatsApp calls.