Don’t think a passcode protects your phone from skilled hackers

Hackers have gotten ever more clever in regards to accessing the data stored on smart phones. And hackers are doing this regardless of whether consumers protect their phones with lock-screen passcodes. As a recent story on the Lifehacker technology Web site says, passcodes have never been a completely foolproof way to secure your smart phone. Thankfully, there are actions you can take to better defend your phone. And there are services you can enlist to protect yourself if you’ve lost your smart phone or someone has swiped it.

Passcode problems

According to the Lifehacker story, recent passcode exploits work differently based on if hackers were targeting the iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phones. For the iPhone, the exploits allowed hackers to gain access to the Phone app, not the iPhone’s home screen. This meant that hackers can use other’s phones to make calls, see users’ contacts and access users’ photos, even though they didn’t gain total access to the phone. For the Galaxy, hackers managed merely to flash phones’ home screens for about a second. That’s a small amount of time, but adequate to allow hackers to launch an app or start downloading one that can unlock your phone entirely.

No magic bullet

As these attacks show, using a lock-screen passcode is no guarantee that hackers won’t have the ability break into your phone. As the Lifehacker story says, passcodes today are no more effective at keeping out hackers than are standard passwords. This means you have to take the extra steps if you want to protect your phone from cyber criminals.

Protecting yourself

To protect yourself, first be sure that your lock-screen passcode is at least complicated to guess. Lifehacker recommends a passcode consisting of letters, symbols and numbers. Next, make sure you encrypt the data that you store on your smart phone. Lastly, consider paying for services such as Prey or Apple’s Find my iPhone. These services offer the ability to track your phone after it’s stolen or you lose it. Even better, it allows you to erase the data stored on it, so that hackers can’t reach it.