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Cell Phones & Cell Phone Infrastructure in Cybercrime

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Cell phones and cell phone usage have created a new environment in which cybercriminals can operate. In this lesson, you'll learn more about the use of cell phones and their infrastructure in cybercrimes.

Googligan The Hooligan

It was a breach that impacted 13,000 people a day. It wasn't the result of a careless retailer. In fact, it wasn't even computer-based. Rather, malware called ''Googligan'' attached itself to Android cell phones around the world, stealing data from more than a million Google accounts before it was detected.

The criminal masterminds behind the malware were able to install fraudulent applications on the infected phones, stealing user data and gaining complete access to individuals' devices.

Cell phones are becoming a more popular tool of cybercriminals.
smartphone, cell, phone, infrastructure, hacking, cybercrime, cyber, crime, hackers

Maybe you thought cybercriminals only targeted desktop computers, but now you can see that's incorrect. The range of mobile devices in the market today, combined with their frequency of use, has made cell phones and smart phones a key target for cybercrime.

Think about your own cell phone. It's probably almost always on and connected to some type of network. If you're like most of us, you conduct all types of personal business on it. Your social media accounts stay logged in. You're connected to your bank and other financial apps. You may even have credit card data stored in your phone for easy online shopping.

The fact is, since 2016, more people are using cell phones to access the internet than traditional computers. It only makes sense that tech-savvy cybercriminals would see these devices as the new gateway to committing their malicious acts.

But, what types of threats are posed to these devices?

Threats to Cell Phones

It's hard to list all of the various ways or reasons cybercriminals may attack a cell phone and its infrastructure. It could come in the form of intercepting communication to gain access to sensitive information or, as with our lesson opener, it could come in the form of a malicious app designed to steal money. Heck, it could even be simply to wreak havoc on you and your device. Let's look at a few of the many different kinds of cybercrimes cell phones can serve as a venue for.

  • Bluetooth attacks: Most phones are now equipped with this technology and phone owners often turn it on and leave it on. This always-on functionality can create a channel for cybercriminals to engage in activities like bluesnarfing, where user data is stolen through an open Bluetooth connection.
  • Malicious apps: We touched on this briefly with Googligan, which infected thousands of Android phones. Malicious apps can appear to be normal downloads in an application store, but can transmit malware and give criminals control of your phone. Although less common, these types of viruses can also infect Apple products.
  • Browser-based attacks: Whether you clicked on a link in an email that you shouldn't have or visited a suspicious website, your web browsing activity even on a cell phone can open a channel in which cybercriminals can gain access to your data.
  • Operating system vulnerabilities: Sadly, some of the cybercrime activity out there is beyond preventing by simply being cautious. Vulnerabilities in operating system software, left unchecked, can be breached by savvy cybercriminals looking to exploit those opportunities to gain access to your devices.
  • Unsecured connections: If you've ever joined a public Wi-Fi network, surprise! You've made your device more accessible to lurking cybercriminals who capitalize on open channels to gain access to devices.

Protecting Your Device

So, how can you keep your cell phone safe from cybercriminals trying to target it - and you?

First, disable connections that can compromise your device. That means turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth until you really need them, and avoiding connecting to open, public networks that are not secure.

Leave your smartphone alone. No, that doesn't mean don't use it. What it does mean is to resist the urge to tamper with your phone's built-in security settings or ''jailbreak'' your phone to gain access to different features. Both can compromise the integrity of your phone and its infrastructure.

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