Text messaging security: Common mistakes we all make

December 20, 2013 prolog Comments Off on Text messaging security: Common mistakes we all make

Text messaging has indeed injected a heavy dose of convenience into mobile communication, but unless used responsibly, it can leave you, your family and even your friends susceptible to various security threats. SMS communication is a popular target for snoops due to the amount of personal information contained within them. Ironically, you yourself may be inadvertently encouraging the snoops to go after your messages by committing some pretty basic yet serious security mistakes.

Sharing sensitive personal information

Have you been sharing your credit card information, social security number, PIN or other such sensitive personal information over SMS, believing it to be a completely secure mode of communication? If yes, then you, like many others, are clearly ignoring what the security experts have been stressing upon time and time again. Text messaging is not as secure as it is touted to be, primarily due to its insecure transmission routes. It’s not an end-to-end communication, which means the content of your messages are passing through an intermediary, typically the network operator’s systems or the short message service center (SMSC). The messages may even be stored there for a certain time, called a validity period, after which they are deleted. Anyone with an access to those systems can pry into the messages and hence scoop up the sensitive information that you may have irresponsibly shared in them. Therefore, you need to be wary of the possibility that someone with malicious intent may have access to all your communications and hence refrain from sharing sensitive personal information through text messaging.

Ignoring the threat of spyware

It’s pretty common among cell phone users to keep sent or receive text messages stored on the phone. Since they are only a few kilobytes in size, we normally don’t think much about them. This indifference can end up becoming a huge security risk if someone manages to break into your cell phone and gain access to your messages folder. With sophisticated monitoring tools available on the Internet, it is safe to assume that no cellular device is safe. All it takes is one security hiccup for the snoop to sneak a surveillance program into your cell phone and then go through all the messages that are saved on your phone. If you don’t want anyone to be going through your private communications, it’s best to remove SMS from the phone after going through them.

Sending inappropriate messages

Ignoring or being oblivious to the fact that the government is monitoring every text message pretty much and storing it, you may be texting inappropriate stuff in jest, thus making yourself come off as a security threat and consequently landing on the government’s radar. Joking about murdering, kidnapping, or planning a terrorist activity may seem funny to you or the person you’re texting, but don’t expect the government to laugh find such texts amusing. You need to act responsibly while communicating via text messaging and take the matter of national security, as well as the government’s commitment to safeguarding it seriously.

Texting may not be the securest mode of communication, but it is still significantly safer than using a third-party app, which may be plagued by several security loopholes and leave the message vulnerable at both the sender’s and receiver’s end. Furthermore, copy of messages may be stored by the service provider on their internal servers, which may not have strong-enough padlocks on them to keep the snoops out.

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