On/Off: NSA’s super-easy tips protect your phone from hackers – 08/23/2021

A simple tip to protect your cell phone against cyber criminals was released by the NSA (United States National Security Agency): turn off your cell phone more often.

It’s not new that there’s a constant worry about data leaks out there. The cell phone is one of the devices that gather the most precious information for hackers, such as your location, address, personal passwords, bank accounts, documents, sensitive conversations, contacts, photos. Turning off your device more often can prevent this data from being scattered around.

The NSA has developed a guide with invaluable tips for mobile device security and strongly recommends that people turn off their phone more often. At least once a week.

Without network access, it becomes more difficult for criminals to access personal information and steal it to sell around.

Zero clicks

The tip becomes relevant because of some of the strategies cybercriminals use to access victims’ cell phones. One of them is called “zero clicks”. In it, the person does not need to click on any suspicious links to fall into the trap. The hacking technique takes advantage of cell phone operating system vulnerabilities, allowing the installation of a malicious program without the user’s consent.

A recent example of application of the technique was the case of Pegasus, a spy software created by an Israeli company that allows secretly tracking all the activities of the person who has the infected device. Almost like a virus, it can read sent and typed messages, access information from bank accounts, social networks and emails.

Pegasus was used to spy on some 50,000 human rights activists, journalists and lawyers around the world.

Google and Apple said they’ve fixed potential vulnerabilities that would allow spying, but there’s still a risk in devices that haven’t been updated or in holes that haven’t yet been discovered.

Regardless of the type of malware and virus, in addition to switching off your phone frequently, check immediately if your device has an up-to-date operating system.

The NSA also recommends other actions to increase privacy and protection on cell phones:

  • Do not open attachments and links from unknown people
  • Do not hold conversations on sensitive subjects via messages
  • Use the original charger and other cell phone accessories
  • Do not use public USB chargers or public wi-fi or bluetooth networks
  • Disable location (from cell phone GPS and/or social media access) when possible
  • Use strong passwords — no choosing a parent’s birthday
  • Use biometric authentication to secure application access