Phone Cloning and Digital Self Defense

man holding phoneDid you know it’s possible to clone a phone? It involves copying the identity of one phone to another. In fact, in today’s digital world, when we use them for everything from ordering an Uber to paying for purchases, mobile phones can be a major source of security breaches. And as frightening as it sounds, the only thing a hacker needs to launch a major attack is your phone number.

Why clone a phone?

Hackers clone phones so they can use them, or sell them to people who use them, to make calls and access the phone’s data. When a phone is cloned, the calls made by the hackers are billed to your account. But that’s just the beginning.

Phones often contain enormous amounts of personal information. So, once the hacker has access to the phone, they can cause devastating financial damage.

The hacker can listen to you from their own phone and watch you through your camera. They can read your messages, access your passwords and view your contacts.

Cloned phones are also convenient for criminals, particularly in drug-related crime, because they are more difficult to trace. If your phone is used this way, it may appear to authorities as if you are engaged in criminal activity.

There are a number of ways to clone a phone. The easiest way is using specialized software that’s readily available online. Another way is to program a new phone to transfer the serial settings and phone number from a legitimate one.

How can you tell if your phone’s been cloned?

You may not know your phone has been cloned until you notice unusual financial activity. However, you may detect hints that the phone has been cloned, such as lots of wrong-number calls, difficulty making outgoing calls or retrieving messages and unfamiliar numbers on your phone bill.

Protecting yourself

Here are some proactive and reactive steps you can take against phone-cloning:

  • Review your phone bill for unfamiliar numbers and charges. If something looks suspicious, have your provider check for viruses that may have resulted from cloning.
  • Input your phone number into a search engine to see if any links include your number.
  • Use another phone to call your number and see if someone picks up.
  • Contact your financial institution to verify whether anyone has tried to open credit cards or loans in your name.
  • Make sure your phone is password-protected. Create different passwords and PINs for all the accounts that are accessible using your phone.
  • If you suspect cloning, you may have to restore your phone to its factory settings.

If you determine your phone was cloned, contact your phone provider and the FBI immediately.