Police: Phone security is growing concern

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Dexter Police Department Detective Trevor Pulley retrieves information from a cell phone to make sure it hasn't been used for any illegal activities. Pulley is equipped with the equipment and the know-how to retrieve all manner of information from smart phones suspected as being used in the commission of a crime. Photo by Jonathon Dawe - jdawe@dailystatesman.com

DEXTER -- "We've gone from the pen and paper, to the typewriter and every technology step in between to computers and now smart phones. Everyone has."

Those words have been spoken regularly by Dexter Police Department Detective Trevor Pulley. Recently, Pulley has been emphasizing the need for more personal vigilance in guarding information on smart phones.

"There are all kinds of threats out there," Pulley advised. "And phones are just another tool for these threats."

In the age of advancing technology, Pulley explained that more and more people are doing business through their phones.

"People pay bills with their phones, shop with their phones," Pulley remarked. "Just think about everything that you do with your phone. Just think about what personal information you have on there."

Although phone companies have started improving security features on their new phones, Pulley acknowledges that many people are using older versions of phones; and, are therefore more susceptible to having their identity stolen.

"It takes very little time for someone who knows what they're doing to get hold of your phone, get into it, and get your information," Pulley explained. "People need to realize that, even though phones have made things easier, they can be used in bad ways also."

While Pulley has access to new technology that enables him to investigate cyber-crimes that have been committed with smart phones, he noted that there is little to any preventive work that he can do.

"That's why you need to check your accounts regularly," Pulley remarked. "You need to check your bank records every chance you get and look for irregular activity. And, if you find an irregularity, you need to report it immediately."

Pulley noted that many cyber criminals count on people to not take immediate action.

"It doesn't take very much time at all to check your account histories and make sure everything is the way it needs to be," Pulley explained. "It's just a preventive measure that can go a long way."

Pulley went on to explain that changing technology is making it a little more difficult for hackers to do damage through someone's phone. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.

"Like, if you go to an airport, there's usually all kinds of open wi-fi networks available," Pulley said. "Some of those are bogus; and once you link into one, they have access to everything in your phone and retrieve your information. It can happen very fast."

Another growing concern in the area of phone security is one shared by concerned parents everywhere. With the advent of popular messaging apps, children and teens are now -- more than ever -- susceptible to being targeted by pedophiles and other unsavory types of people.

"I won't allow any of my kids to have an app like "Kik" on their phone," Pulley explained. "That's a messaging app where anyone can talk to anyone else and share all kinds of information. It's so easy for kids to end up getting sucked into talking with someone they don't know. Things can go bad pretty quickly."

Pulley suggests parents with children who have iPhones should have all accounts tied together with the same plan.

"With iPhone, you can log into iCloud and track where they are at all times, see what apps they download. It can even show you their iMessages," Pulley explained. "It is a very useful tool for parents who want to monitor who their kids are talking to and want to know where they are at any given time."

Pulley said Android phones are starting to do similar things; but, at this time, they aren't quite as secure as iPhones.

"Part of being an involved parent is knowing what your kids are doing and who they're talking to," Pulley remarked. "So get their online information. Find out what accounts they have. Find out who they're talking to. There are threats everywhere. I don't trust any external messaging apps."

Pulley also suggested carefully reviewing all app permissions before downloading. Some apps have abilities programmed into them to allow certain liberties on your phone that you may not want.

"We've been saying for years that parents need to take a very active role in their children's lives," Pulley remarked. "If you think anything appropriate is going on, address it. If something is causing you alarm, report it. A little bit of effort can go a long way."

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