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Security & privacy

Frightening new tactic lets hackers steal texts on a large scale

The internet can be a crazy place. It’s full of hackers with no shame who are always looking to rip us off.

They even go after things like your home router. They try to get in to steal bank account information, passwords and other sensitive data to commit identity theft. That’s why you need to take extra steps to protect yourself. Tap or click here for a free tool to see if your router has been hacked.

Sometimes, hackers’ motives are a bit more devious than just taking your money. We’ve just learned about a scary new way hackers are stealing confidential text messages — what are they up to?

Chinese state-sponsored hacking group caught

With the ever-growing presence of state-sponsored cyberattacks, there are concerns these campaigns will lead to a weaponized cyberattack designed to take down key civilian infrastructures and cripple entire nations.

Is that what’s happening now?

According to cybersecurity company FireEye, a state-sponsored Chinese hacking group is stealing SMS text messages in a big way. They are infecting devices with malware known as MESSAGETAP and using it to steal messages from high-ranking military officials and government agencies.

FireEye Director Steven Stone said, “MESSAGETAP allows China to efficiently steal data from multitudes of sources from one location. Espionage-related theft and intrusions have been long occurring, but what is new is the vast scale due to the use of this tool.”


Related: 9 million webcams wide open to attack, see if yours is on the list


China’s use of technology for spying purposes is a huge concern, especially in the field of telecommunications. So much so that the U.S. government is trying to convince allies to avoid using tools Chinese companies produce to build their next-generation networks.

U.S. intelligence agencies have been warning against using Chinese-based companies like Huawei (pronounced Wow Way) phones for a while now. Tap or click here for more details on the Huawei scare.

Is there any way to protect against MESSAGETAP?

In a statement, FireEye said it’s nearly impossible to protect messages from the MESSAGETAP tools.

One thing that can be done is any targeted official or organization should make sure their communications are utilizing end-to-end encryption. This can help lower the risk of sensitive information being stolen.

The best thing to do is not send critical information over SMS. This will eliminate any chance of being intercepted.

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