Experts urge public to STOP sending SMS messages amid fears hackers could intercept data and suggest using encrypted services such as WhatsApp

  • SMS is the go-to messaging service for Android users, but it is flawed
  • Experts warn the delivery process gives hackers the ability to intercept data 
  • They can also see text, time stamp and destination of these messages 
  • Experts are urging the public to use services like WhatsApp to keep text private 

SMS, or Short Message Service, became widely popular in the late 1990s and is a popular source of communication among Android users -but it is also the ‘least secure messaging medium’.

Experts warn the service is not encrypted and messages travel through multiple steps before reaching its final destination, allowing cyberthieves lurking in the shadows to intercept the information.

They are now urging users to drop SMS and adopt over-the-top (OTT) applications, such as WhatsApp, as they conceal data by converting it into a code and follow internet protocols.

More than six billion text messages are sent in the US daily and it is safe to say, senders believe that the information is kept private –but that is where many go wrong, according to Kristina Libby with Popular Mechanics.

When a SMS message is sent, it travels to the closet cellular tower over a pathway called the control channel, then makes its way into a SMS center (SMSC), which resends it to the tower closest to the recipient, and then the message lands in their phone.

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Experts warn the service is not encrypted and messages travel through multiple steps before reaching its final destination, allowing cyberthieves lurking in the shadows to intercept the information

This process also includes data such as the content, length of the message, format, time stamp and destination – which could be intercepted by a cyberthief lurking around the pathway.

Christopher Howell, CTO of Wickr, an firm that builds encrypted services, told Popular Mechanics: ‘Because of the lack of encryption, hackers can search for weak points anywhere along the virtual path between the sender and receiver, which includes a ton of different network devices and computing systems at many different providers—only one of which needs to be exploited via technical vulnerability, misconfiguration, social engineering or insider attack.’

‘Because the messages are stored on these systems longer than necessary,’ Howell continued, ‘it increases the window of vulnerability through which the hacker can attack.’

‘Rather than having to defend a system for a few seconds to prevent a hacker from stealing a message, it needs to be protected for days, weeks, months. ‘These odds favor the hacker.’ 

The are now urging using to drop SMS and adopt over-the-top (OTT) applications, such as WhatsApp, as they conceal data by converting it into a code and follow internet protocols when delivering text

Just last year, a massive data breach exposed tens of millions of SMS text messages that included private customer data like password reset information, shipping notifications and two-factor authentication codes,  

The database was operated by Voxox, a California-based communications firm.

Making matters worse, the database wasn’t even password protected, according to Sebastian Kaul, a Berlin-based security researcher who discovered the vulnerability.

Not only are scammers capable of accessing private text, but governments are also peeping into these digital messages.

Millions of Britons fell victim to a major hack earlier this year, as it was found that their mobile phone data had been exposed to Chinese hackers for up to seven years in one of the world’s biggest cyberattacks.

This process also includes data such as the content, length of the message, format, time stamp and destination – which could be intercepted by a cyberthief lurking around the pathway

The hackers, believed to be working for the Chinese government, placed espionage tools on the systems of at least ten unidentified mobile phone firms around the globe to spy on high-profile targets.

Georgia Weidman, the founder of Shevirah Inc. and a New America Cybersecurity Policy Fellow, said: ‘Text message hacks are happening everywhere, from middle schoolers hacking their enemies to steal their pictures to nation state level attacks.’

APPS WITH END-TO-END ENCRYPTION 

· Apple’s FaceTime

· Apple’s iMessages

· Signal

· Wickr

· Wire

· WhatsApp

OTT apps working differently from SMS, as it sends encrypted messages that only the parties involved can access the information.

This means the messaging service is unable to ‘see’ what you are sending nor is anyone else able to take a look.

These apps also require individuals to use the same platform as the person they are messaging, which keeps everything in one place.

Kristin Kozinski of Don’t Click on That said: ‘Use the same caution when responding to SMS text messages as you would a suspicious email.’

‘When evaluating a message consider the source of the message.’

‘If you don’t recognize the number, confirm the context of the message elsewhere.’

‘For example, if your bank texts you, call the customer support number to verify the message you received.’

‘Be cautious of any link in the text message. This is a prime outlet for distributing malicious URLs.’

‘Finally, if the text sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’

 

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