Give credit where credit is due, the bad actors are nothing if not resourceful. Take for example the newest delight appearing on cell phones around the world, spam, phishing, and other nonsense designed to trap the unwary and create problems for those unlucky souls.
PCs can be readily protected with a wealth of software tools and safe practices by users. You are using a current anti-virus/malware/firewall app and following safe online and email practices, right? Good, that’s what we thought. If you’d like a little primer on malware and safe online practices, check out our earlier blog post.
Protection for cell phones is not as prevalent as for the PC making it a prime candidate for attacks. Up until now, the main attacks have focused on infected apps and traditional email delivered attacks. Now, the bad guys are ratcheting it up and sending spam messages. They are in their infancy, so fortunately are crude enough to stand out. Expect that to change.
An article by PCMag.com goes into a few of the tips and techniques you can use to protect yourself and your personal data. We dig into the technical side shortly, but now, let’s talk about practicing safe text security. Here goes:
- Don’t click on a link or call a number you don’t recognize. Delete it.
- Poor grammar? Delete.
- Want to know more before deleting? Search for the text or phone number online. Delete afterwards.
- Do not reply with Stop or some other wording. You have only validated your phone number and it will be shared with other bad actors. Delete, delete, delete.
Now onto the more technical aspects. The article does an excellent job of walking you through various steps for both the iOS and Android platforms. Each allow users to block the phone numbers that sent the text. For example, blocking in an iOS system, you take these steps:
- Open the suspect text message
- Look for the “I” inside a circle and tap it
- In the next window, scroll down and near the bottom you see a “Block this number” option
- Tap that and you are done.
- Oh, and then delete the text.
Turn the bad guys in…or at least report them to your carrier. Copy the contents of the text, including the number and text it to 7726, which by an odd quirk of fate spells out SPAM. This works for AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. They use the info to try and block future spamming.
Android users can turn on Caller ID and Spam Filtering to put a dent in these malicious contacts. Here’s how it works:
- In the phone app, click on the three stacked dots at the upper right.
- In the next screen, select Settings.
- In Settings, turn on both Caller ID and Filter Spam options.
- Save as directed and enjoy fewer spam/robo texts.
The major carriers offer spam blocking features, usually for a fee, although AT&T has a free version that is actually quite effective, Call Protect. It is geared towards phone calls, but we can hope all will start addressing text and SMS issues.
The article then shifts gears into a pair of subscription apps for both platforms. Nomorobo is available for $1.99/month. Clever name, right? Also available for both is an app named, Robokiller, another catchy product name. Just kidding on the name comments, we don’t care what they are called if they work. The PCMag.com article goes through enabling both apps. They do not comment on how effective either of these are at quelling the unwanted texts.
One last thing you can do if you live in the US, is put your number on the FTC Do Not Call list. In the past, it wasn’t an issue with registering a cell number because those were purposively blocked from unsolicited calls because they used minutes. Now with every phone plan offering unlimited minutes, that prohibition is gone. The Registry is provided to legitimate telemarketers who delete the numbers from their automated dialing tables.
As long as there are new communication developments, we can expect the bad actors to find a way to trick people into giving away their valuable information. For the best secure communication solution, check out our CRIP.TO Black and Shield products. Together, they provide the highest level of end-to-end encryption available to folks outside spy agencies, military ops, and high-level government types.