Voicemail hacking. It sounds like something out of a conspiracy theory or spy novel, but recent events in the U.K. have shown that anyone from a murdered 13 year old to Hugh Grant can be a victim of voicemail tapping or hacking.
Unfortunately, voicemail hacking is pretty easy to pull off with a collection of personal information or a bit of social engineering. We can’t promise that these steps will make your voicemail un-hackable, but they will help you keep unwanted individuals out of your personal business.
How VoiceMail is Hacked
You may not know this, but your voicemail can be accessed from any phone as long as you know which number to call. The number varies from carrier to carrier, but is easy to find online. After hackers have this number, they can start trying common passwords and your personal information to try to access your voicemail.
If that fails, they can also try to convince the phone company to reset the password by pretending to be you. Thankfully this is getting harder to do, as carriers require information such as the last four digits of your social security number, but it isn’t impossible.
How to Protect Your Voicemail
Change The Default Password
When you get your first cell phone, the company normally provides you with a standard voicemail password. Most users change this, but if you haven’t bothered to remove the standard password you’re taking an unnecessary risk.
Pick a Good Password
Too many users think that there is nothing important in their voicemail and opt for an easy to remember password like repeating digits, a straight, your birthday or your ATM PIN. While these passwords may be easy to remember, they leave your account vulnerable. There are numerous websites which offer up common 4 digit and 6 digit cell phone voicemail passwords.
If you skipped past your birthday, there’s still a pretty good chance you used a variation of the top iPhone security codes as your voicemail password.
Instead of picking the obvious, find a few easy to remember digits that spell out something secret. That means no kids names, pet names or anniversary dates.
Add a Password to Your Account
If you want to add an additional layer of protection, you can add a password to your account at many carriers so that only authorized users can make changes to the account. To do this, call up your carrier and ask about an account password. The process takes a few minutes and will help keep a hacker from getting access at the source.
Get Voicemail from Google Voice
An even better option is to switch to Google Voice for your voicemail. After you sign up for a free Google Voice account, you can forward your cell phone’s missed calls to Google Voice. Assuming you have a strong password for your Google account, you have just secured your voicemail better than you might with a 4 digit PIN.
You don’t need to switch phone numbers or have a smartphone to make this work. Just follow our Google Voice Voicemail instructions at Notebooks, to make the switch. As an added bonus, your voicemails will now be transcribed and emailed to you.
Why You Should Care
You may not be a movie star or political official, but as we ditch landlines we rely on our cell phones as a primary means of communication with numerous individuals, organizations and companies we wouldn’t want to be public. Whether it’s a message from the bank saying you have been denied a loan or a voicemail from a medical specialist, there are some things that shouldn’t be shared. If you take a few minutes today, you can make it harder for someone to hack your voicemail and get your personal information.