Is your cell phone secure?

By Adrienne Sakyi

Anti-viral software, security settings, and identity theft protection — they’re not just for computers anymore. New security risks are threatening cell phone users as well.

One of the newest threats to cell phone security is viruses. Skulls, Cabir and Fontal are viruses that can infect “smartphones,” which are a combination of a computer and cell phone.

According to, viral attacks on cell phones are not common because only four percent of all cell phones sold last year were smartphones. As the smartphones becomes more common, though, viral attacks on phones may increase in frequency.

New devices, like smartphones, are constantly flooding the market with better ring tone capabilities, color videos, mp3s and an ever-decreasing size, but upgrades leave users with old cell phones. While alternatives range from storing old phones in the home to selling them on e-bay, users should keep security in mind.

Those who buy used cell phones may have access to a wealth of the previous user’s personal information. Purchasing features like ring tones and video clips on a cell phone means that credit card information may be stored on the cell phone.

In addition, bank passwords and the passwords to Web sites accessed on Internet from the phone can be retrieved by thieves. Information that seems to have been erased can be retrieved by trained specialists, just like it can on computers. Consult phone manufacturers for the proper way to reset phones.

The safest way to dispose of a phone is to remove the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card and return the phone to the manufacturer or provider.

Daniel Stockham, sophomore political science major, said, “I turn in my phone to the manufacturer if it is broken or I get a new one.”

Thieves can commit cell phone fraud while you use the phone also. According to a study from Cornell University, it is possible for thieves to intercept a cell phone signal and clone the phone’s ID numbers. Once the ID number is cloned, thieves can bill a user for all of their calls.

Cloning is a federal crime that costs cell phone users $500 million a year, according to All suspicious calls should be reported to the service provider since thieves may use a number for thousands or only one phone call.

Some students like Abby Gullah have not been charging their cell phones throughout the night to conserve energy.

“I don’t keep my phone charged all night because it seems like a waste of energy because the battery can only charge to so much,” she said.

A way to save more energy and reduce vulnerability to cell phone cloning is to turn off the cell phone at night. Some other ways to reduce vulnerability to cell phone cloning is to limit roaming and review all bills for suspicious calls.

According to Nanci Schwartz, regional media manager for Sprint, cloning is no longer a danger for digital cell phones.

“Sprint no longer sells phones that are susceptible to cloning, so the major threat for fraudulent charges involves losing phones,” Schwartz said.

The dangers of a lost phone are obvious enough. If it can happen to Paris Hilton, it can happen to you. To avoid some damage that can result from lost cell phones, users should password protect voice mail and all applications. The hassle will be worth the safety if the phone is lost. According to Bob Egan of Mobile Competency Inc, the “skip passcode” option available on most phones is easier to hack.

How to protect your information
– Be careful about posting your cell phone number and e-mail address.
– Do not follow links sent in e-mail or text messages.
– Be wary of downloadable software.
– Evaluate your security settings on your computer.
Tips to selling cell phones
– Instead of storing sensitive data on your phone, use an external memory card that can be removed.
– Before you sell your cell phone, contact your carrier and/or manufacturer for advice about how to wipe personal information off the phone in ways that cannot be recovered.
– Visit the carriers and manufacturers Web sites for additional information, advice and tips.
– Some phones with Microsoft mobile software can be remotely wiped if the phone is lost or stolen.
– Other third party software can delete a phone’s information if a specially coded e-mail is delivered to it.
– Back up any information on your phone, on your computer in case your phone is lost or stolen.
— Compiled by Adrienne Sakyi

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