Smartphone spying has become normal in the mobile innovation period. Despite that people usually don’t take their smartphone security seriously until they become a victim of a cybercrime, of course.
It’s important to remember that all internet-connected devices are not only hackable but also come with vulnerabilities.
For smartphones, it’s important to run anti-virus software and ensure your apps are up to date. The lookout makes free anti-virus software for iOS and Android phones that can help you keep tabs on the health of your device.
Anytime you bring technology tools into your life there are privacy risks to consider, and the unprecedented adoption of web-based chat tools has breathed new life into an old concern: people taking control of your devices’ cameras and microphones.
Check Your Device Permissions
All sorts of apps can request permission to access the camera, microphone, and other features, such as location information, on your phone or computer. Using the steps below, it’s easy to see which apps have requested permission and revoked permissions that you’ve granted in the past.
“Make sure you understand all the apps that have permissions for video and microphone access,” Jackson says.
He recommends turning off any permissions that aren’t important for your day-to-day life. That way, even if an app is compromised, the attacker won’t be able to make a direct connection to your camera or microphone without implementing some additional hack.
Jackson says he even revokes permissions for his infrequently used apps after the calls are over. “Maybe I’m a little more paranoid than the average person, but I want to limit the damage in the event that I’m compromised,” he says.
On an iPhone: Go to the phone’s Settings > Privacy > Camera > Tap the toggle next to an app to revoke permission. Then go back and do the same under the “Microphone” menu.
On an Android phone: Go to the phone’s Settings > Apps > Permissions Manager > Camera > Tap an app to control its permissions. Then go back and do the same under the “Microphone” menu. You can also temporarily turn off access for every single app using the toggles in the Privacy tab under Settings.
On a Mac: Go to the computer’s Settings > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Camera > Uncheck the box next to an app to revoke permission. Then go back and do the same under the “Microphone” menu.
On a PC: Go to the computer’s Settings > Privacy > Camera > Turn off Camera access altogether, or use the toggles next to individual apps to adjust permissions. Then go back and do the same under the “Microphone” menu.
Use The Tape Method
There’s a famous picture of Mark Zuckerberg with a laptop in the background that has a piece of tape covering the camera. Doing the same with your computer is one shortcut to peace of mind. If tape looks too messy for you, you can buy stickers just for this purpose that are designed to be easily moved and replaced.
“That physical barrier is a great solution for video, but it won’t work quite as well for your microphone,” Jackson says. In fact, he says, built-in microphones are often designed to keep working even if they’re obstructed, so you don’t accidentally silence a call with a misplaced finger. “With a phone or laptop mic, you often just have to rely on software to protect you,” Jackson says.
However, you could try what’s called a “microphone blocker,” essentially a dummy plug with nothing on the other side of it that you insert into your device’s headphone or microphone jack. When working as intended, a blocker tricks a device into thinking a microphone is plugged in and switching over from the built-in microphone, so a hacker wouldn’t get a signal if they breached your system.
Make sure that you stay up to date
Every time you have a Windows update that says, hey, I need to update your computer. It’s usually to fix a known attack, that hackers have figured out to get access to your computer. And
so keep up to date, whether you’re using a Mac. They aren’t impervious to attack or using Windows. The same thing updates your systems. That’s the most important thing, always keep up to date with what you’re having out there.
Same thing for third-party applications or using Java Adobe PDFs, office documents. Those are all things that you want to keep up to date and that makes it much harder for us as hackers to break into your system.
Avoid Dedicated Video and Audio Chat Apps
“Every time you install a new app on your device, you’re adding another back door into your system, with more potential software vulnerabilities that hackers can try to exploit.
Most apps like Google Hangout, Zoom, and Skype give you the option to make and receive calls by logging in to their site on your web browser without downloading any special software. Using your browser instead of downloading an app is an easy way to stay a little safer.
A web browser isn’t inherently more secure, but the fewer apps on your machine with access to your camera and microphone, the fewer opportunities hackers will have to break in and spy on you. And the experts we spoke with said that major web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are safe and reliable.
“For some people, there will be chat apps you can’t avoid because they have features that aren’t available in the browser version of the service,” Feng says. You also might not have the option to remove apps that come preinstalled on your device, like the Apple FaceTime feature. “That’s okay. Just take the steps that make sense for your situation. Any extra effort will leave you better protected.”
Source: Consumer Reports