VirtualThreat Contributing Writer
Hackers with ties to Al-Qaeda terrorist cells in Somalia and the Philippines are targeting New York small businesses using international phone hacking scams. The scams are costing the companies hundreds of thousands of dollars in phone charges each month.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said that the hacker group has a connection to Syracuse and it is currently under investigation by Federal and local law enforcement authorities, however the group’s members have not yet been apprehended. He went on to say that so far 26 New York businesses have come forward to report that they’ve been victims of the phone hacking scams.
One local business, Best Cleaners, received a $150k bill from their phone company for connecting over 9000 overseas calls. The company is currently fighting a legal battle against the phone service provider to challenge the validity of those charges.
Schumer said the Al-Qaeda hackers may be using the phone hacking scams to make large amounts of money, or simply to communicate using inconspicuous numbers. Either way, he says the situation needs more investigation.
The hackers gain access to the phone number’s configuration through voicemail interfaces, typically due to the use of weak passwords. Once the accounts are breached the attackers can then set up call forwarding to international toll numbers under the hacker’s control.
Once call forwarding has been configured, the hackers use automated scripts to make thousands of calls to the hacked numbers. This results in high charges being made to the owner’s account, charges that may go unnoticed for as many as 30 days after the fraudulent calls were made.
Voicemail users should take the following steps in order to keep their accounts safe from phone hacking scams:
- Use a complex voicemail access code and/or password, DO NOT use the ‘default’ access code or password that comes with the system.
- Change your access code and password frequently.
- If you don’t make international calls, block these call types from your phone system.
It is important to note that phone hacking scams like the one discussed in this article are not restricted to businesses located in New York. Several other cases have been reported by individuals and businesses in other U.S. and international locations.
Schumer urges individuals and small businesses to pay special attention to their phone bills to look for fraudulent charges and activity.
About the author…
Chris Dougherty is a grey hat hacker and online security expert. Please visit his blog, www.VirtualThreat.com, for more excellent news and information about protecting yourself in cyberspace.
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