One of the greatest challenges faced by a computer hacker is how to monetize their exploit. An avenue not often considered is our phone. Or, more importantly to the would-be criminal, our phone’s companion, the phone bill.
A New Hampshire man recently pleaded guilty in Federal Court to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and failure to file income taxes. These charges are from a scam which forced telephone modems to dial premium service numbers without their owner’s consent. The pay-per-minute numbers were owned by the perpetrator and generated $7.9 MILLION dollars of fees over a five year period. By keeping the amount of each call low he stayed under the radar for a long time. In fact, he was never detected forcing a compromised machine to dial one of the premium phone numbers but “done in” by buying several Lamborghini’s with cash.
This scam is also now being used with SMS texts. A recent piece of malware running on Android phones makes money by secretly sending SMS text messages to premium numbers.
How do you protect yourself?
1) Know what devices you have with phone circuit access and where possible, disable those unnecessary. You may want to check with your business machine supplier to see if any of your multi-function devices pose a threat.
2) Require an authentication code for any outbound calls to Premium phone numbers. See you phone or business equipment provider on how to do this.
3) Be careful when selecting the apps you install on your cell phone
4) Pay close attention to your phone bill.
The last one, “pay close attention to your phone bill”, is extremely important. Not only can you possibly “catch a thief”, you might also find unnecessary phone charges. Just because your phone bill remains relatively constant does not mean it’s correct or you are not paying for unneeded services. If you’d like to find out how to get phone bill audit, let us know.