27 October 2009

Phone fraud

There are real fears thousands of mobile phone users are being exposed to the risk of identity fraud, which could end up costing them thousands of dollars.

Charlie Brown joins the show with the risks involved.

1. The first risk is our increasing exposure to identity fraud through mobile phones

  • Mobile phones that are lost, stolen or recycled are exposing thousands of people every week to identity fraud.
  • According to recent data, there are approx 19 million mobiles in service and another 16 million stored away. Aside from those phones that are traded in, figures show almost 3200 mobile phones are reported lost or stolen each week.
  • When people trade these phones in or sell them on eBay they rarely think about protecting their identity and the identities of their friends who reside on the phone.
  • Experts warn that we should ensure that data stored on an unwanted mobile is erased, first by deleting the information and then by restoring the phone to its factory default settings.
  • We are also warned that when disposing of a mobile, we need to destroy its SIM card by snapping it down the centre before disposing of the phone.

2. The second issue ties in with the issue of identity fraud and has to do with a technological breakthrough that will allow text messages from mobile phones to be retrieved five years after they were deleted.

  • The new device, called an "XRY FORENSIC DEVICE" mines old SIM cards for long-erased nuggets of personal information.
  • Companies which handle mobile forensics for Australian police, private companies and suspicious individuals have started using the technology and say old text messages can be easily found within minutes.
  • The XRY forensic device costs $25,000

How the device works:

  • The XRY System can read SMS messages, phone numbers, address books, pictures, videos and much more from the mobile phone memory and the SIM-card .
  • You simply insert the SIM card into the XRY device, which is shaped like a hockey puck and connected to a computer..and it brings up deleted items from the phone onto the PC.
  • The tool supports more than 800 phone models and SIM cards and is easily connected to your PC.
  • The Sunday Telegraph tested the abilities of the XRY forensic devices last week and were able to retrieve hundreds of messages from a seven-year-old SIM card, including a "Merry Christmas" from December 25, 2005.
  • They were able to ascertain the owner's date of birth, home address, brother's name and high school attended - all from deleted messages.

How can deleted items be retrieved?

  • When you delete an item from your phone, it does not actually remove the item, but rather deletes the pathway to the item. The mobile phone you are using has just "forgotten" where on the drive that information is sitting but it is still there.
  • This information can last forever, depending on whether new information is copied over the top of it or not.
  • The problem is that we do not know when our deleted items have been replaced and when they are still in our phone, but unable to be retrieved by us.

Below are some examples of information that can be retrieved - even after they have been deleted:

  • Telephone books with names, numbers, etc.
  • SMS messages that have been sent, received and archived
  • Pictures
  • Calendar information
  • Sound files
  • Call logs
  • Multimedia messages

Wider implications

  • In decades past, phone memories could only handle text messages and a contacts book however the latest smartphones offer GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity and can download emails directly to the phone.
  • Consequently, there is now a vast amount of personal information that can be obtained using the forensic device.
  • People have always trusted their mobiles and have therefore been willing to feed personal information into them.
  • They often store their bank details, Tax File number etc. in their phones so there is a real threat of identity threat.
  • However, this new technology is incredibly effective for police, private companies and suspicious individuals keen to catch wayward spouses!

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