You don’t have to be a celebrity to have your phone hacked. Nor do you have to be one for someone to use your information against you.
What many people don’t realize is that using out of office voicemail puts their personal information at risk. Furthermore, most individuals don’t take the necessary steps needed to prevent hacks.
For example, a reporter hacked Prince William’s voicemail in 2005. This reporter published an article based on the information extracted from a voicemail.
The information gathered didn’t have anything to do with political affairs. Rather, it was about borrowing a portable editing suite. However, the reporter received a sentence of 6 months in prison for his crime.
Law enforcement was able to catch this criminal because he made his crimes obvious. But many hackers are never brought to justice. They are left to take advantage of other innocent people.
This scandal, however, had people asking a serious question. If hackers can get into the voicemails of the royal family, what makes you believe you are safe?
If you want to find out more about how to prevent hackers from accessing your data, read on.
What is an Out of Office Voicemail?
An out of office voicemail is the voicemail system used whenever you are away from your office.
Most modern businesses are interested in acquiring cloud software. Software like this helps employees communicate, no matter their location.
Yes, the cloud-based software helps businesses improve communication between remote workers. This type of software is essential for modern businesses. But it can also expose the vulnerabilities of workers.
Out of office voicemails are not only used by companies that utilize cloud software. The vast majority of offices with older models of telephones also use voicemail.
Most businesses use out of office voicemail to let clients know that they cannot access the phone at a certain time. Maybe they need to inform them of a slower response time, or possibly even a vacation.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Many people go as far as revealing personal information in their voicemails. Not only do they reveal their location, but they often mention critical details. These details include email addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, and street addresses.
To make matters worse, callers may leave their personal information on the business’ voicemail. Many people don’t know any better.
The Weak Link
Most IT specialists do their best to keep software and businesses safe from attacks. But what they don’t pay attention to is how employee and clients expose themselves every day. They simply do not have the time to monitor everything.
To the surprise of many, voicemail can be the weakest link of a business’ security system.
Voicemail often contains important information. Yet so many security specialists ignore it. Worse, most businesses don’t secure theirs out of office voicemail.
This makes your voicemail extremely susceptible to attacks.
You might ask yourself, how can something as trivial as an out of office voicemail do so much harm? After all, there are so many things that seem riskier than voicemail.
This is precisely why scammers target voicemails: nobody expects it.
In some cases, a client might disclose his/her name and phone number. No biggie, right? Wrong.
It doesn’t end there.
Some divulge their social security and credit numbers in out of office voicemails.
It is generally discouraged to transmit confidential information over the phone, but it happens all the time.
You may feel comfortable sharing certain information with friends and relatives, or even co-workers. But that doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t listening in.
Treat voicemails as any other digital form of communication. Never assume that information you disclose on voicemails is safe because it’s likely not.
The website balance.com educates people on what a proper out of office voicemail greeting messages should sound like.
We found 4 reoccurring patterns in the examples shown by the balance.com. The 4 patterns are as follows:
- Mention your full name
- Say how long you are going to be away
- Mention where you are on vacation
- Mention your phone number and address
Believe it or not, this is all a robber needs to know to harm you. With this info, they know how many days you are out, how far away you are, and your home address.
Also, if you are important enough in your industry, your phone number and addresses can be easily sold as well.
If someone accesses the building where you keep your phones, they can steal your information. Anyone can get into your out of office voicemail by pressing star (*) or pound (#).
Who’s Accessing Your Information And What Can You Do About It?
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is sending vital information in an out of office voicemail.
When your client sends you his social security number in a voicemail, it is safe to assume he may pay the price for it.
It’s no longer a secret that governments use technology to gather information about illegal activities.
According to the Daily Mail, a technology that can extract information from your phone costs only $30.
Every time you disclose your location, you put yourself in danger of getting robbed. This extends beyond your computer.
When you tell your co-workers that you are sipping cocktails in Spain, you are letting a robber know that they can “visit” your home.
Maybe you work in a very competitive industry. If so, you should prepare yourself for attacks from your competitors too.
Though you shouldn’t believe you are at war with everyone, keeping your sword nice and sharp won’t hurt.
By revealing your location, you make yourself an easy target for robbery, especially if you mention that you are away from home.
What most people don’t know is that something as innocent as mentioning what beach they are on could cost them their flat screen TV.
How to Save Yourself and Your Company from Expensive Mistakes
There are a few things you can change about your out of office voicemail policy if you want to stay out of trouble.
The first step is educating your workers.
Most people don’t know that sharing information through voicemail can be dangerous.
Make sure everyone understands that the weakest security link in a company is out of office voicemail.
You should make a list with the types of information that employees shouldn’t share through voicemail.
The Federal Communication Commission is aware of how hackers operate and what you should do to protect yourself.
A hacker starts searching for mailboxes that still have the default passwords, as well as passwords that are easy to guess.
Even today, one of the most used passwords around the world is “1-2-3-4-5”.
Hackers use software to search for certain keywords and phrases. They can steal valuable information and use it against an organization (blackmail), or sell it to someone else.
Hackers target business voicemail systems during the holidays when there is a lot of activity. As a result, phone companies have a hard time detecting abnormalities during that time of the year.
Scammers can come from any corner of the world. Some of the most popular scams involve using systems for international calls.
Scammers may contact you to recover important pieces of personal information. These criminals use blackmail, or they simply re-sell your information to whoever pays the most.
Yes, businesses are the targets of most hackers. However, users of private voicemail should change their passwords too. It’s never a bad thing to protect yourself.
How to minimize your risks
To avoid falling for these common scams make sure you follow these guidelines:
- Change your passwords from default and make sure you don’t use passwords that are easy to guess
- Use a password that is at least five digits
- Change your password at least twice a year
- Do not use your name, phone number, birth date, wedding day, or any other obvious information
- Don’t use passwords with repeating numbers, such as 0000 or 1111
- Do not use passwords in the form of 12345
- Consider blocking international calls entirely
- Check your out of office voicemail greeting regularly to make sure it is yours
- Ask your voicemail service provider about how you can keep your voicemail safe
Most people are unaware of the risks they expose themselves to when using voicemail. They carelessly share vital information about themselves in out of office voicemail messages.
Some share their relative location or street address. Worse, others share their social security number.
To keep your business safe, educate your employees. Make sure they know what they should and should not say over voicemail.
Also, make sure you follow the guidelines regarding the security of your voicemail.
For example, never use the default password. Change it as soon as you can. Additionally, make sure your passwords are strong enough and don’t include obvious numbers or names.
If you don’t use international calls or other costly features, block them. Don’t take any extra risks. And check your voicemail greeting message regularly.