Your old phone number could also be exposed to privacy and, security risks and worst, hacking after mobile carriers recycle it, research reveals.
Mobile carriers recycle phone numbers to avoid the expected “exhaustion” of the latter within the future. It’s wherein all the possible combinations of digits are taken.
According to the Wall Street Journal, almost 37 million phone numbers get recycled per annum. A whopping amount, therefore, is exposed to vulnerability.
Phone Number Potential Exploitation
Number recycling, unintentionally, unmasks the knowledge of old customers to new ones. And within the worst-case scenario, it could potentially be used for exploitive activities like account hijacking or just hacking, the study by Princeton University claimed.
Moreover, the recycling of phone numbers has been shrugged off during a comical sense by many. In most cases, it annoys the new owner of the amount as messages meant for the previous owner are wrongly sent to them.
But when personal information is exposed, it gets daunting.
In the Princeton study, a user of a recycled number was “bombarded with texts containing biopsy results and spa appointment reservations.” Funny as some may find, this personal information should not be at the hands of others in a more profound sense.
Alarmingly, our phone numbers are related to our online accounts. and a few may even find themselves using it for two-factor authentication as another security. Therefore, the new owners could easily access your social media accounts, emails, and even e-commerce accounts.
Aside from phone numbers and private information sent wrongly, hackers could also pair information from data breaches, like when a hacker, on April 4, published about 500 million phone numbers and knowledge from Facebook for free of charge during a forum. Some are even selling information from hacking almost like this. It, consequently, could lead to a successful account takeover.
How to Avoid Potential Vulnerability
The research, furthermore, says that the chance for hackers to require over your account is substantial.
In addition, it notes that 66 percent of the recycled numbers are still connected to the accounts of its former owners. It means the amount is susceptible to a minimum of one to 3 attacks.
The research suggested users keep their phone numbers when switching carriers.
Number portability “allows active subscribers to modify to a competitor while retaining their original number for small to no cost,” the study says.
The study also raises the thought of parking numbers before deactivating. “Subscribers can park their number at a fanatical parking service (e.g., NumberBarn offers low-cost monthly number parking),” it suggests. It’ll allow users to unpair their numbers from all of their accounts. Though, this might sound tedious.
Moreover, the researchers also reached bent carriers to make further awareness on number recycling. Both Verizon and T-Mobile, in response, improved their documentation but have yet to stop the likelihood of the attacks from happening ultimately.