You spend so much time thinking about how to keep your network safe from hackers that there probably isn’t much bandwidth left to think about other attack vectors. Unfortunately, one of those exists in just about every employee’s pocket: their cellphone. Hackers are coming up with new and inventive ways to attack cellphones, but one of the scariest facts is that cellphones can be hacked with nothing more than the phone number and the right software. It even happened to a U.S. Congressman!

The SS7 Vulnerability for Cellphones

While it has become a commonplace device for most of us, cellphones happen to be pretty complex pieces of technology. There are many layers as to how the communications protocols work on a cellphone. One of those signaling technologies happens to be something called Signal System Number 7, or SS7. Many companies use this protocol to exchange information like billing, roaming and data features.

How bad is it? With just your cellphone number, and a hack into the telephone network, hackers can accurately know your position, listen to your phone calls and read your texts. What is the scariest part, you ask? There is no way for you to be alerted that anything is wrong.

How the Hack Works

In order for this hack to work, two things need to happen. First, hackers must be in possession of your phone number. Once they have this information, they will need to hack into a telecommunications company using the protocol and gain access to their network. From there, your cellphone is wide open.

This hack isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think; anything from a lost password to a disgruntled employee can be used to gain access.

How to Avoid This Security Issue

The best way to mitigate the threat of this type of access to your cellphone is to use software that will encrypt your communications. This is a piece of software that you install on your phone that will scramble all of your messages as they are transmitted, and then decode them on the receiving end. Some common programs are Signal, WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage.

These are all very effective at keeping your communications safe from prying ears and eyes.

Other Things to Avoid

While the SS7 vulnerability is a little more complicated to avoid, there are some simple things that you can do as well to ensure that you are keeping your phone safe from hackers.

Watch Your Downloads – Just like you wouldn’t click on just any pop-up that shows up on your computer’s browser; use the same caution on your cellphone. Only download from trusted sources.

Use Physical Protection – Set a password, pattern, finger print or facial recognition, and lock your phone every time you walk away from it.


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