Smartphones simplify our lives. But what kind of information do our phones contain about us, and just how safe is that information? Three experts weighed in on the issue of cyber security during DeSales University’s spring Forensic Forum.
The Battle Against Cyber Crime: Protecting Yourself and Your Devices featured Joseph Walsh, Detective Matt Dotts, and a special agent of the FBI Cyber Squad.
Walsh teaches digital forensics and computer security at DeSales and is a former member of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force and the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force.
Using his own iPhone as an example, Walsh gave a stark warning to the audience. “There are 3,170 pieces of location data on this phone,” he said. “This phone is tracking where I am all the time.”
Even if you delete something from your phone, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone. Web history from nine months ago can still be recovered. “Data can come back to haunt you,” Walsh said. “You think it's gone but we can undelete things that you think you deleted.”
He also recommends being wary of free Wi-Fi. While it may save you on your data plan, it could cost you in the end. Walsh brought a hacking tool known as Pineapple Wi-Fi to use as a prime example. Hackers use it to create wireless hotspots. Once you connect to it, it can log every single thing you do. “It can keep track of websites you visit, it can capture your user name and password, it can steal your bank data,” he said.
Walsh’s biggest piece of advice: use a secure password on your phone. But how do you know what’s secure? He recommends using a longer password with a symbol.
Take DeSales1 for example. This, Walsh said, would take a bad guy just two hours to crack. Adding one exclamation point — DeSales1! — would take four weeks, while using DeSales1!! would take six years. What about adding three exclamation points? That, according to Walsh, would take a whopping 400 years to crack.
The second panel member, a special agent of the FBI Cyber Squad whose name cannot be published due to security issues, spoke of the growing mobile malware threat. “Mobile apps are invading your privacy,” he told the audience. “Your mobile device can share all sorts of personal information with honest businesses and with cyber criminals.”
He urges people to use common sense. “Think about it logically. If it's a calculator, why would it need access to your microphone, or your camera, or your contacts?”
Detective Dotts had a similar message: trust your instincts. The 18-year veteran of the Derry Township Police Department in Hershey is currently assigned to the Criminal Investigation Section where he specializes in financial and technology-facilitated crimes.
Dotts encourages everyone to beware of online scams, anything from work from home jobs to lotteries and sweepstakes. He also recommends disposing of your devices the right way. “If you're going to get rid of a computer or cell phone, get rid of that information. Pull the hard drive out and smash it. Know where your old cell phone is going.”
Dotts deals with cases of identity theft every single day. But a few simple steps can greatly reduce your chances of becoming the next victim. After all, most victims tell him the same thing: ‘I knew it wasn't right.’
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