I have good news! I discovered that the hackers did not actually access my cellphone. I found someone who was able to explain it to me and I am so grateful to +Anthony Fawcett because he made it a simple enough explanation that I was able to understand it. As he explained it to me: "All the things that happened with my phone made it appear as if it had actually been hacked but the problem was actually with my Juno email. In the bad guy's endeavors to hack my accounts they triggered the text but it went unread by them because the phone could not have been accessed by them unless I downloaded an app and agreed to the access on my phone." (paraphrased)
The bad guys still have control of my Juno email account as far as I know. Juno finally responded and acknowledged that hackers had indeed accessed my account from the servers but not my device. (yay! Good news!) Juno has a pin number system that I was supposed to set up for cases like this (I didn't know that or I would have set one up.) I will take the blame for that, I should have looked into it more. They were unable to send the password to my other email account without a pin number but they would be glad to send it to my Juno email. After reading that I was thinking, "What, how does that help me get my account back?". Their suggestion was that I just open a new email account with them. I did email them back and request that they please at least close down my old email and wipe my information so the bad guys would have no more access to it. No response yet from Juno on this except that it is still under investigation.
I won't live in fear as a result of this. We must be ready with our defense but not to the point that it keeps us from living our lives. After this has happened, I feel more cautious but it will not keep me from using my cellphone for many things including my email and more. I will just use all the available safeguards given to me through my email, cellphone, and online accounts, and I will continue to be cautious about what I am putting where on the internet.
In my efforts to learn more about what to do when I believed that my cellphone was hacked I did learn a lot. Here is a list of things we can do to keep our cellphones, devices, and online accounts safe from hackers:
- Do not download apps from unknown developers. Make sure to download only through well known app stores but even then be very careful. The best way into your phone is through an app and then you give them permission to whatever they have access to in your phone. The way the bad guys work is they make an app that is helpful but they use this app as an undercover way to access what they really want...access to your phone and the loads of information they can find there. Read the permissions that you are giving to apps. It is easy to get conditioned and just click away in the effort to get the app downloaded. Be aware of who you are allowing to access your phone and all that is on it. Is a flashlight or other app worth giving up your text messages, your photos, your web browsing, your social media, etc.? Only you can decide if it is worth the risk.
- Use the screen lock features on your phone. Many smartphones have a screenlock feature where you must type in a password or pin number to access anything on the phone after it has been idle. Use this feature. Many phones can actually be fingerprint protected. Mine has this ability but alas, I can not use this feature because of the many times when I accidentally touched the hot glue (a painful florist and crafter hazard) Now those sensors can't pick up my fingerprints. Some smartphones have a face or voice recognition feature and will remain locked until it recognizes you or your voice. Use these features.
- Install an app lock. This is an app you can download from your app store that will protect your personal apps
- Make sure that your bluetooth is turned off. Only turn it on when you are actually using it and make sure it is set to undiscoverable or not visible to other bluetooth devices when it is on. In the event it needs to be visible then do this in a secure area. Not your hotel, or airport, etc.
- Don't store your important password information on your phone, device or online anywhere. I use the storage for less important sites but you can bet that my important passwords are completely different from those and I never save them. I type them in everytime I access that account.
- Don't share your passwords with others. I have access to some accounts for other people because of my work helping them with websites and/or social media. I write their info in my password book. I inform them that I have it in my book and encourage them to change their passwords
- Use passwords that are random and not predictable. Here is a list of most used passwords. Don't use them! It is easy to remember passwords that say something but it is dangerous. Use something random. A tip for remembering passwords: I use a small address book or small notebook to keep my passwords in. I keep it small so It can travel with me. I list the accounts alphabetical and allow space between so I can add more later. Some such as Google get changed more often than others so I give that account a whole page. I have a backup password book just in case the first gets lost or compromised somehow. Then I can immediately go through and systematically change all my passwords again. That is how I knew exactly what accounts had my Juno email as part of their sign in or as backup email.
- Use the available security features on all your accounts even the less important ones. If there is a double layer or triple layer security system then it is because that company is trying to protect you and your information. Use it. Despite their other faults, Juno did offer a pin number system but I didn't have it set up. My bank has been frustrating at times because of their security stuff but I am so glad of that now. Frustrating beats having my money stolen by hackers. I will not complain or take their names in vain again when I have trouble getting to my online banking after this.
- Backup your data to your cloud or your google account, or wherever you store data but keep it backed up and delete it from your phone. This is helpful in several ways. If you fall into the pond with your cellphone then your data, messages, photos, contacts, etc are safe and retrievable. If your phone is stolen or hacked then you change your passwords from another device and lock out the bad guys from your data. It gives you access to all the data from your other devices which can be helpful too. Be sure to delete your browsing history often.
- Voicemail needs to be password protected with a unique password to keep unwanted listeners out. Don't use any passwords from the most used passwords list. Don't share your password with anyone. If you do, then later change your password. This keeps you safe from "friend" and/or foe.
- Install a good mobile security app. A good mobile security app will check your phone for any malware that tries to steal your information and it will have a feature that will let you control your phone remotely in the event that is needed such as it is stolen, or lost. Be sure to protect this app with a different and secure password than you use anywhere else so that it is secure too.
- Delete text messages from unknown senders and DO NOT Click links in text messages or emails. If you need to check your bank account or any account then go online or go to your official app and go to the website and log in. Bad guys can disguise an email or text message to look like it is your bank or email carrier, or whatever they want it to look like. Just because it looks like it is from them doesn't mean it is.
- If you use your phone to access the internet then only use secure Wifi networks. An unsecured Wifi network can make you a target on any device. In the event you use an unsecure network then please DO NOT do banking, or shopping there. Your information can be interecepted on unsecure Wifi networks. It can be tempting when you are sitting in that hotel room, restaurant, coffee shop, airport, etc to do a bit of business or shop but it is a definite risk that could be devastating to you. If you travel a lot and feel you want to be able to shop or bank safely then look into a personal mobile hotspot. That way you take your own secure Wifi network with you wherever you go. Be sure to use the security provided for the hotspot.
Sources & Citations:
- WikiHow accessed 2/20/2015