It won’t be wrong to say that the most valuable possession to humans today is their cell phone. Not only they are your main source of communication but also they contain approximately every bit of your personal information. Today, Smartphones are vulnerable to hackers more than ever. They can hack into your phones by using a vulnerability in the worldwide mobile network infrastructure. Hackers can easily read your text messages, keep track of your phone calls and track your device’s location just by the knowledge of your phone number.
What is SS7?
The system that connects one mobile network to another is generally known as Signaling System No 7 (SS7) – Also commonly known as Common Channel Signaling System 7 (CCSS7) in the United States and Common Channel Interoffice Signaling 7 (CCIS7) in the United Kingdom.
In a simple explanation, SS7 is termed as a set of definite protocols which enables phone networks to exchange the information needed for passing calls or text messages from one network to another. It ensures that users of one network are allowed to roam on another, like when traveling in another country.
What are hackers able to do?
Once someone gains access to the SS7, he can access the information that the protocol uses to provide you with a constant service for your texts, calls and other data. Hence, they can keep track of your calls and texts, forward your data transparently and peep into your cell phone’s location any time they want. Whether it’s used by a law enforcement agency (Positive Technologies SS7) or someone who gains access to the network of numbers, anyone with a mobile phone can be vulnerable to it.
What can be done about it?
Since the vulnerability has come to the surface, mobile phone operators’ trade association and other bodies have been patrolling the network. They have set up a series of services that monitor the network, looking for intruders or abuse of the signaling system. Mobile networks have employed security contractors to perform analysis of SS7 and to prevent any unauthorized access. However, nothing is ever hack-proof but all we can do is try to make it as much stronger as we can.
People in power, Beware!
The risk of surveillance for an average user is pretty low considering the billions of cell phones across the globe. More often than not, people in power present within organizations or government are at greater risk of being targeted easily. So is there anything that can be done from the user end to prevent it? Well sadly, there’s not much you can do besides forswearing the service but there are some precautions that you can take in order to avoid a massive data breach.
Security measures that you can take:
· Switch to Encrypted services:
Instead of using traditional SMS service, use encrypted messaging services like Facebook, WhatsApp or any other available. This will send your info without having it go through the mobile network.
Same measures can be taken for calls. A service that carries voice over data is more secure than a voice call network. Organizations like Silent Circle allow you to have secure voice communications.
· Use WiFi to mask your location:
As for your phone’s location, it can be tracked at any point when your mobile’s on. In order to prevent it, the best solution is to turn off your phone’s connection and rely on Wi-Fi instead.
Nothing can be hack proof and there are only a few things that we, as a user, can do to ensure the safety of our personal information. However, new ways of avoiding the data breach are being used in order to secure everyone’s privacy.