Understanding Caller ID Spoofing
Here is a scenario that will help you understand about caller ID spoofing and why it is really important for you.
Image Credit: Don Hankins, Flickr
You are a famous celebrity. Being a celebrity, you will have lots of fans, reporters at your heels, and at times, a few enemies. Any person who falls under the three categories mentioned will be really interested in your day-to-day activities for various reasons. Since you love your privacy and you don’t want everything to be known with everyone, you have total control of what you share with which circle of people. However to keep up with your busy schedule, you have started relying more on modern technology like voicemail, smart phones, etc.
One day your manager leaves you a voicemail asking you to meet him at a place X (you can substitute any place for X) at a certain time to discuss an upcoming project. Voicemail is a great feature that you love because it lets people leave their messages for you when you can’t be reached, thus it helps you be free from worrying about missing calls. However, this feature comes with a huge potential price tag- your privacy- because it is very easy to hack into your voicemail.
Caller ID spoofing lets a person with curious or malicious intentions to fake your phone number and access your voicemail. Since your voicemail thinks that you are the one calling, the person behind the fake number can now have total access to your voicemails. Now that person knows you are at the place X, at time Y, and that you are going to work on a project Z (something that you have kept a secret from media and other people). Hacking into your voicemail was as simple as that.
You can take the above scenario and draw an analogy with your life. There will be a few people who will be interested to know what is happening in your life. It can be one of your exes, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your spouse, or it can be just about anyone who wants to play a prank on you. Getting into your voicemail is not rocket science and any person who knows a little about computers and phones can breach your privacy and you will not even know it, unless you look carefully.
Voicemail is just one attack vector using caller ID spoofing. Unless you have been living in a lonely island, you would have heard about how a few reporters of the famous “News of the World” hacked into the voicemails of the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, various members of the royal family like Prince William and Prince Harry, various soccer stars and movie stars, and the list is endless. The reporters were no computers experts; they just used a simple approach that had been overlooked or rather, ignored, by many, for a long, long time.
Caller ID Tricks – How to Test it on Yourself
To check if you are safe or not, you will need the following:
1. A victim – That will be your number
2. An application – Lots of computer programs and smartphone apps are available in the wild that will let you spoof a phone number, in this case, your own number. You can use either a computer or a smartphone for this hack, to use the caller id faker app.
Install the program on your computer or smartphone, depending on what you want to use. Dial out using the number of the victim (your cell phone number) and try using the default PIN 0000 or 1234 or the last four digits of the number, chances are, you will enter the voicemail. So much for security! (And shame on you for allowing this. On the other hand, we all have to live and learn. Right?)
Image Credit - Flickr, 7263255
Caller ID Dirty Tricks for Snooping and Profit
Are you wondering what possibly can happen if someone spoofs the caller ID? The possibilities are many. A person might spoof the caller ID of a bank and call you and trick you into giving your bank account details and your other personal details, thereby gaining total access to your bank account and leaving your money at his mercy. An insurance company representative might spoof your doctor’s or lawyer’s office number and lure you into giving details that he would love to have to deny your surgical claim.
The approaches and intentions are many. In most cases, you will have to use your common sense to distinguish between real calls and fake calls, which will keep you out of trouble.
Preventing Yourself from Caller ID Dirty Tricks – Best Practices
Currently there is not technology that helps you in identifying spoofed caller IDs. It is more like a case of distinguishing between your mother and her clone. However, there are some precautions that you can follow to prevent yourself from being a victim of fraud by falling to spoofed caller IDs.
Do not share your phone number on random websites. Many websites use your phone number to their advantage.
When you answer a call from a person you know, or at least the person you know as per your cell phone, be cautious. Make sure that you are talking to the real person, the person you know, and not to a stranger who is spoofing the phone number of a number that you know.
There are tools available in the market that let you blacklist and white-list numbers. Although this doesn’t always help, it will block certain calls thereby saving you time from unnecessary fake calls.
Check if your network provider has the provision to use a voice-mail PIN. If yes, set a new PIN or at least change the default PIN. Assuming that it is a four digit pin, the hacker will have 10,000 combinations to use if he has to get into your voice-mail. It is still not secure but it is indeed a good start.
Change this PIN periodically, every three months or so.
Do not give out personal information unless you know that you are talking to a valid source.
If you really care about being private, don’t use a voice-mail at all.
Think twice before giving your phone number to someone. To understand the importance of your phone number, just imagine going out without your good old phone number that was used by your dear and near to keep in touch with you and vice versa.