Beware: Scammers can hack you using nothing but a phone number

Im almost finished checking out New York Times author Nicole Perlroths fantastic new book, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends, in which she lifts up and turns over the rock of the global cyberwar arms race to show us all the nasty, wormy hackers and spies below who play around in that muck. Its a gripping read, like some type of cyber-focused John le Carre thriller– just, you understand, real– and I cant suggest it enough.
Its also essential to keep in mind that hackers can trigger all sorts of mischief without even needing to resort to the zero-days and the myriad other digital tools that they pay leading dollar for, and which nation-states have used to amass frighteningly extensive hacking war chests.

In some cases, all a hacker needs is your number to manage something like a nasty yet extremely efficient phone scam.
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What were particularly describing is the practice of mobile carriers to recycle your old telephone number whenever you select a brand-new number. When we run out of new phone numbers to assign, providers will offer that old number to a new client in an effort to delay the eventual date. As you might speculate, nevertheless, a new study from Princeton University researchers has detailed a number of the security and privacy threats connected with this practice, which is due in part to the fact that telephone number are so typically connected to Two-Factor Authentication defense.
In their paper, the researchers say they tested 259 contact number available to new customers at two significant carriers, and found that “171 of them were connected to existing accounts at popular websites, potentially allowing those accounts to be hijacked.
” Additionally, a majority of available numbers resulted in hits on individuals search services, which provide personally identifiable information on previous owners. A significant portion (100 of 259) of the numbers were linked to dripped login qualifications on the web, which could enable account hijackings that defeat SMS-based multi-factor authentication. We likewise found design weaknesses in carriers online interfaces and number recycling policies that could assist in attacks involving number recycling.”

35 million U.S. contact number are detached each year. A lot of get reassigned to new owners. In a new study, @kvn_l33 and I discovered 66% of recycled numbers we tested were still tied to previous owners online accounts, perhaps permitting account hijacking. https://t.co/Ilj0iPkqXA pic.twitter.com/gXPwoIlwVZ
— Arvind Narayanan (@random_walker) May 3, 2021

What were particularly referring to is the practice of mobile providers to recycle your old phone number whenever you decide for a brand-new number. Providers will offer that old number to a new client in an effort to hold off the eventual date when we run out of new phone numbers to appoint. As you might surmise, however, a new study from Princeton University scientists has actually detailed numerous of the security and personal privacy threats associated with this practice, which is due in part to the fact that phone numbers are so frequently connected to Two-Factor Authentication defense.
We also found design weak points in providers online interfaces and number recycling policies that might help with attacks involving number recycling.”

In a brand-new research study, @kvn_l33 and I discovered 66% of recycled numbers we tested were still connected to previous owners online accounts, perhaps enabling account hijacking.

One thing the researchers recommend that individuals do is “park” their existing telephone number when detaching their line.
Customers can really park their number at a devoted parking service like NumberBarn, a mobile virtual network operator, or at a VoIP supplier like Google Voice. “This consists of customers seeking to change their number, and those who require to briefly detach their lines beyond the 90-day suspension offered by some carriers (e.g., an employee contracted overseas),” the researchers add. And amongst the advantages is that subscribers would, at that point, have more time to update their SMS Two-Factor Authentication settings.
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Andy is a press reporter in Memphis who likewise contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When hes not blogging about technology, he can be discovered stooped protectively over his blossoming collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a range of TELEVISION programs you probably dont like.

Some of the recycled contact number, the researchers note, were still getting security- and privacy-related calls and messages, covering things like authentication passcodes and prescription reminders. “New owners who are unconsciously designated a recycled number may realize the rewards to make use of upon receiving unsolicited sensitive interaction, and end up being opportunistic foes.”
The big question, what can ordinary individuals do, in light of this practice?

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