While there have been marked improvements in cellular phone security in recent years, users still need to be aware of the security risks associated with cell phones. The following frequently asked questions and answers tell you what you need to know about cell phone interception, cloning, and fraud and what to do if your cell phone is stolen.
Are cell phone conversations secure?
No conversation transmitted across radio frequencies is completely secure, but you have a higher level of security with digital and PCS (personal communications service) phones. Conversations on digital phones are encoded, which makes them more difficult to intercept. Some of the newer PCS phones transmit your conversation across a spectrum of frequencies and even scramble it, making transmission almost impossible to intercept.
What is cloning?
Cloning involves using and illegally charging calls to someone else's account. Cloning is a federal crime that costs service providers an estimated $500 million a year. Newer digital phones are harder to clone.
What is authentication?
Authentication involves challenging the validity of each call by requiring the sending phone to transmit a response to a code. If the phone doesn't respond properly, the call can't be completed. Authentication, an automatic process, has largely replaced the use of PINs.
What do I do if my wireless phone is stolen?
Contact your provider as soon as possible and ask to have your service suspended. Providers have different policies about how much you're charged for local and long-distance calls made after your phone has been stolen. You can prevent further charges by reporting the loss immediately. In addition, if you have a smartphone with e-mail and other data stored on it you may be able to remotely erase the contents of the lost device. If you have an IT department it should be immediately notified so it can begin the remote wiping.
Where can I get phone insurance?
Wireless phone insurance that covers theft or loss of a phone is widely available. Contact the dealer or carrier who sold you the phone or call your provider to learn more about your options.