Understanding risk: How your phone can breach your privacy

Feb 07 , 2020

Understanding risk: How your phone can breach your privacy

Understanding your phone's security

Omerta provides secure handsets that utilize leading-edge security, both in the provision of best of breed hardware designed by the world's finest minds & software which is considered so secure White House officials use it for secure communications.

This does not mean your phone is immune to risk. Your phone is only immune to risk when used under certain criteria. If you cannot meet all the criteria then your risk level increases - this doesn't mean you are not protected; simply the margins for intrusion are increased. Bear in mind, these criteria are not necessarily complicated. Someone stood behind you can read your text messages rendering the world's greatest encryption useless. An encrypted call made over loudspeaker can be overheard.

The following guide highlights the risks your handset are exposed to; we will discuss how Omerta offsets these risks in a future posting.

How your communications are at risk

Communications are at risk from 5 distinct areas, chiefly:

  1. Your handset
  2. Communications during transmission.
  3. The recipient caller’s handset
  4. Residual data recorded by service providers
  5. Data leakage

Each point presents malicious players an opportunity to eavesdrop on your calls, read your SMS or steal your data.

Your handset

Your handset presents an excellent vector for a malicious third party to intercept your communications and data. Hackers can use a myriad of techniques against the unaware & examples include:

  1. Physically accessing your handset and installing a stealth app which will:
    1. Record all your telephone calls & forward this to the hacker
    2. Covertly forward text messages and emails to the hacker
    3. Disclose your location
  2. Remotely hacking your device to achieve the same goal.
  3. Using silent SMS codes deactivate security features
  4. Physically bugging the phone

The common misconception is that your communications are only at risk during transmission; the truth is with a modern smartphone the transmission stage is actually the least likely point of interception since transmission is the easiest stage to protect!

Communications during transmission

Data or communications can be intercepted during transmission (i.e. when you are chatting with another party on the phone). This may occur at any geographic point between callers, such as at the mobile transmitter station or outside the recipient’s house!

The recipient's handset

Much like your handset, the recipient's phone is at risk of hacking; this means you must be sure of the integrity of your recipient's situation as all your security measures can be in vain if your recipient fails to secure their side.

Residual data recorded by service providers

Communications are as likely to be made via a web-based service as they are to use standard telephone technology. This presents additional risks because the web-based service provider will most likely record all communications on their system & potentially keep these for years.

Every day private companies hand over communications to authorities to settle court cases.

Data leakage by handset

Modern smartphones collect lots of additional data besides communications and data. Information such as your location, your contacts, call logs and actual SMS can be uploaded to application providers. This is not even considered malicious but standard industry practice.

This means what you thought was a private call is actually stored and logged on a server without your knowledge. The contents of the discussion may not be recorded but your location and who you contacted might be, which could be enough to cause problems.