Your Smartphone Is Spilling All Your Secrets
Tom Kerr writing on smartphone security …
There are movies about guys who get so used to the soothing, semi-exotic voice of Siri that the interaction begins to feel intimate.
Then there are real-life scenarios where loose-lipped Siri betrays you and blabs your closely guarded secrets.
Siri is resourceful and convenient, no doubt. Hey, if they figure out how to make her talk with a southern drawl or French accent she might make a total fool out of me.
But you should know that beyond the cool and helpful façade she lacks discretion. She can gossip behind your back, even though you thought your smartphone was password-protected.
“Hey, Siri!,” I asked. “Show contact information for Jessica.”
Siri didn’t take the bait, answering, “You’ll need to unlock your iPhone first.”
But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t contact Jessica.
“Hey, Siri! Send Jessica a text.”
Siri instantly complied. “What do you want to say to Jessica?”
When some random dude picks up my locked phone, I don’t want him to say anything to Jessica…especially since she’ll assume the message was from me. But if you lock your phone and ask Siri to do your bidding, you’ll likely discover just how easy it is to compose emails, send texts, and place phone calls. Siri also divulged the name of the contact most recently called.
In locked mode you can browse the scheduling calendar, too.
“Siri, show me my calendar…” Your nosey boss could see that you’re meeting with a competitor over lunch next week to discuss their job offer.
Your competitor could access your sales appointments…then steal your marketing leads and pitch products to them a day before you’re scheduled to pitch your own.
Maybe your vacation plans are detailed on your calendar…a treasure trove of information for a burglar.
A stranger could ask, “Siri, show me my reminders.” If you stored passwords, medical data, birthdates, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or other confidential goodies as “reminders”, they could view those, take a snapshot of them with their own phone, and then replace your phone…all within a matter of seconds.
You’d have no idea that you just got hacked.
If a phone operates on an older, less restrictive version of the software it can be even more susceptible. Older phones and software platforms made it possible to retrieve entire text message strings…even though they were on a locked device. Earlier software vulnerabilities also allowed users to access apps on the phone…and once you start digging around inside an app you can uncover lots of precious data.
The takeaway is that you should routinely update your smartphone software. And if you value your privacy and security, you may also want to disable the function that allows Siri to give other people access to your locked phone whenever they utter the magic words, “Hey, Siri!”
That greeting can potentially be the digital equivalent of “Open, Sesame!”
All you need to do is go to “Settings” on your iPhone, select “Siri” and disable the menu feature that says “Access When Locked.” If you use some other type of phone platform with similar locked access capabilities, just locate the settings and set your privacy preferences accordingly.
You may want to share these tidbits with your friends and family members. A very effective way to do that is to ask their locked but unsecured phone to send them a text message.
Next time they pick up the phone they’ll see a message that they didn’t send (from themselves and to themselves) alerting them that although Siri is a concierge-level companion, she isn’t that great at keeping secrets.
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