Scarlett Johansson cellphone pictures aren't all that smart phone hackers are after
As more and more corporate and personal business is done via mobile devices and social media, it is more than Scarlett Johansson cell phone pictures that are being hacked.
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"It's psychologically very different from the computer they know," says Joseph Steinberg, chief executive officer of Green Armor Solutions, a security software company, "because phones are in your pocket and feel very intimate." But what many users fail to realize is that today's sophisticated smart phone technology has converted these pocket devices into complex computing and Internet communications machines with a secondary phone functionality.Skip to next paragraph
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"Folks still don't realize that their smart phone is really a small computer," says Jack Walsh, program manager for International Computer Security Association Labs, which certifies security applications. "Mobile phones today have more computing power than all of NASA in 1969," he says via e-mail.
And, he points out, even the battle to engage average computer users with basic security safeguards such as hard-to-guess passwords and robust antivirus software is far from won. "Heck," he adds, "folks are still having trouble understanding that they have to use caution when using their desktops and laptops! So, it will be a while before they realize their phone has to be used with caution."
But while consumers and even corporations have been slow to take mobile and social media threats seriously, hacking has become serious business, says David Koretz, CEO of Mykonos Software.
"Hacking is exploding because the underlying motivations for hacking have changed," he says via e-mail. The old image of a hacker as a pale, brilliant American kid living in his parents' basement and taking over missile-control systems is gone. The reality couldn't be further from that old myth, he says.
"Today's hackers are sophisticated organized crime syndicates stealing billions of dollars, rogue activists stealing damning political information, and nation-states stealing classified data," he says. "They are smart, organized, and well financed."
Mitnick, whose book "Ghost in the Wires" details his exploits as a hacker on the wrong side of the law, says the spoof text message demo is one of his favorites because it shows the importance of tackling the human component of hacking.
In two highly publicized recent attacks on corporate Twitter accounts at Fox and NBC, intruders sent phony tweets to cellphones and other followers. The intruders gained access by tricking employees into revealing their company passwords, a practice known as social engineering.
These are extremely low-tech gambits that rely on human foibles, not complicated machinery.
"That is really the largest threat to security," says Chris Hadnagy, author of "Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking." He points to an interview with a member of Anonymous, the global hacking coalition.
"This guy said every hacking attack they've ever launched involved some element of social engineering," he says. Systems are getting more secure all the time, but no system will ever be foolproof against human error. "Nothing," he says, "can replace critical thinking."