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Malicious apps can take pictures using your phone - without you knowing

Malicious apps can take pictures using your phone - without you knowing
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

This is scary, and really needs to stop now.

As part of a university project, blogger Szymon Sidor was trying to hack into cameras on PCs without turning on the indicator light - already a scary situation I've warned you about.

Sidor then turned his attention to trying to hack an Android phone so it would take photos without its owner knowing.

Every attempt he made failed in one way or the other - the phone wouldn't let him do it, or it would show a big preview screen, which is certainly a tipoff.

Finally, Sidor hacked the preview screen itself, making it 1 pixel by 1 pixel - about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

The result was amazing and scary at the same time - the pixel is virtually impossible to spot on Nexus 5 screen (even when you know where to look)! Also it turned out that even if you turn the screen completely off, you can still take photos, as long as the pixel is still there.

He caught some covert video here.

Just so you know, Sidor posted this as a warning, not a how-to. He offers several steps to securing your phone - and they're the same things I've been telling you all along:

  • Pay attention to permissions (for example does that app really need access to your camera?)
  • Keep your Google Account secure - if somebody can access your Google account, they can install apps on your phone remotely without you approving it! Set up two step verification. Change your password from time to time. Set up a secure password.
  • Uninstall unused apps.
  • High battery consumption (settings -> battery), and high bandwidth (settings -> data usage) are potential culprits.
  • Look at the background services that are running (settings -> apps -> running) - does that app really require background service?
  • Swiping app out of application list does not switch off background services (if you want to completely switch it off go to App Info (long press app icon inside menu and drag it to app info section) and click force stop - this ensures no background services are running.

Need some help with security? Here are 5 great apps to secure your smartphone or tablet.

 

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