SaltDNA News

The top 8 mobile hacks that shook the world

09/18/2018 by Nicole Allen

If you've ever forgotten your phone, or left it at home for the day, you will have noticed just how much you use it. On average, individuals check their mobile phones around 110 times a day. Using them for just about everything, from summoning an Uber, paying for their latest Amazon purchases, receiving prescriptions and even tracking shares and trading on the stock market.

Unsecured mobile phones are among the top seven causes of security breaches and your mobile number is all a hacker needs to start the attack. Using your number, hackers can send you a text message containing a malicious link, which when clicked allows them to read your texts, listen to your calls and even track your whereabouts. With 70% of mobile professionals having access to work on personal devices, the ability to protect internal documentation and communications has become increasingly difficult. With many employees sending corporate information using consumer applications, enterprises are losing control over who their employees are conversing with. Consumer communication applications will always request access to the user's personal contact list, meaning that users can communicate with anyone creating a 'dark network' where company information can be shared with virtually anyone outside the trusted network.

Smartphones are valuable targets for hackers - more so than laptops or personal computers. This is because they can be used as a "pivot point" to attack heavily protected environments such as banks or critical national infrastructure. Hackers can redirect their malicious traffic through your phone and store collected data on it. This means that all forensics traces would point to you as the hacker rather than the real culprit.

On top of this, most phones are open to attack 24 hours a day, seven days a week, often with only constricted security features in place.

News International Debate

How do you destroy a major newspaper that has been in business for over 168 years? Call them out on a decade of violating the privacy of those who are in the public eye. Employees of 'The New of the World' newspaper were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories. Whilst investigations conducted from 2005 to 2007 appeared to show that the paper's phone hacking activities were limited to celebrities, politicians, and members of the British Royal Family, in July 2011 it was revealed that the phones of murder victims and relatives of deceased British soldiers.

News of the World was just one of the publications entangled in this shocking treachery of public trust. The News of the World phone hacking scandal in the UK where it was found that members of News Group International routinely hacked into people's private conversations, with as many as 600 identifiable alleged victims being affected by phone hacking. Since then, reports of phone hacking and communications interception are increasingly more frequent.

2. Scarlett Johansson

ScarJo's iPhone digitally snatched photos hit the Wi-Fi world. After the photos hit the web, Johansson requested that the FBI tracked down the perpetrators. They found a Florida man who was arrested and charged with 26 counts of computer hacking, aggravated identity theft and wiretapping. The man obtained victims' passwords and set their email accounts to automatically forward to him, even if the users reset their passwords. This gave him access to financial information, movie scripts, photographs and private emails, as well as contact lists to find other victims. The responsible party, Christopher Chaney, has apologized for what he referred to as an "addiction."" Before you start researching how to tap a starlet's smartphone, be advised that Chaney faces a maximum penalty of 121 years in federal prison.

3. Edward Snowden

If there's anyone who knows how and why anyone would hack the NSA, and can talk about it openly, it's former contractor Edward Snowden. After all, the exile-in-Russia siphoned off masses of information from the intelligence agency before helping journalists publish the documents, which together have exposed mass surveillance by US and international snoops.

Most intriguingly, Snowden thinks Russia is the most likely suspect. He believes, as do others, that the timing of the leak is enthralling. As many of the leaked files were dated mid-2013, the hackers have been sitting on the data for at least three years. It's only now the materials are being released, a matter of months after US intelligence sources and American security companies claimed the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had been hacked by Russia. Snowden believes Russia is sending a warning on the dangers of attributing cyber attacks.

4. When Hollywood leaks it spills

The International hacking group Anonymous made it to some of the most top phone hacking stories during 2011. Anonymous is known to vigorously go after its targets. It has been associated with crashing Web servers, website defacement and leaking hacked private information. Hollywood Leaks intruded on the lives of the rich and famous a sport. The hacking circle also leaked Julianne Hough's health insurance information, phone photographs and a previously unreleased album.

Many more celebrities have fallen victim to the infamous celebrity icloud hacks continuing to rise, and other well known individuals, such as David Beckham having their personal communications hacked and consequently leaked.

5. Tracking the Taliban

Ironically, some hacks are executed as a pro-security measure: as in International Security. In 2011 the Taliban's telecommunications were hacked- allegedly by U.S intelligence- the entire group received the message: 'Spiritual Leader Mullah Mohammad Omar Mijahid has died. May Allah bless his soul.' A spokesman for the Taliban claimed that their phones, emails and website belonging to the group were hacked.

6. The Presidential Election

Russia's attempt to hack the 2016 presidential election were much more extensive than initially thought. The Russian campaign hit 39 states - twice as many as firstly reported - and in one case hackers tried to delete and alter voter data. The extent of the cyber intrusion was so widespread that Obama administration officials used the infamous "red phone" — which is really a digital communications channel that allows the countries to send information back and forth — to show Kremlin leaders what they had uncovered. It remains unclear, though, if these intrusions had any direct effect on the election's outcome.

7. Panama Hacks

The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney-client information for more than 200,000 plus offshore firms affected. The documents, some dating back to the 1970s, were created by, and taken from, Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, and were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source.

These documents contained personal financial details about the wealthy and public officials had previously been kept private. Whilst some offshore entities are legal, reporters found that some of the Mossack Fonseca shell corporations were in fact used for illegal purposes. Which included fraud, tax evasion and evading international sanctions.

8. Cellebrite

Cellebrite is a company that produces devices that can draw personal data from mobile phones for military and government use. However, the company fell victim to their own game when their external web server was hacked and 900GB of customer information and technical product data was extracted. Which includes technical information and log files, but also messages from governments in a range of countries, such as Russia and Turkey. It's believed that authorities in these countries were especially interested in Cellebrite's phone hacking tech.

This aspect of consumer applications is the key rationale behind SaltDNA's ethos that encryption doesn't result in security, but rather the association of encryption and control provide the level of security needed within an enterprise. An enterprise-grade encrypted mobile communications solution addresses the lack of control that general free messaging applications, such as WhatsApp are missing. An enterprise solution enables the close management of users from a central point with reporting capabilities. Only authorized users can communicate on the encrypted network and they can be provisioned and de-provisioned instantly, greatly reducing the risk that the encrypted network will be used for bad intentions. With general-purpose apps there is no central control and no knowledge of who is using the system, who is communicating with whom, and the frequency of those communications.


Don't be a phone-hack victim. There are several simple things you can do to protect your privacy:

  • Password-protect your mobile device and lock it. Refrain from using personal information when creating your password, which should be at least six to eight characters long. Also do this for your voicemail.
  • Inspect your apps. Not all apps play nice; many of them will worm their way into your system. Make sure to read the app's user rating and comments and always read the T&C's before clicking "accept." You're looking to see whether the app is asking to gain access to data that strictly relates to the job it will execute.
  • You have security software for your computers. Extend to your mobile devices by signing up for the SaltDNA app. We understand the security of mobile communications in today's global business environment is paramount, that's why SaltDNA is built with the features & technology to keep your communications private and compliant.

About SaltDNA

SaltDNA, ranked in the top half in the Cybersecurity 500, provides a fully enterprise-managed software solution that enables absolute privacy in mobile communications. It is easy to deploy and uses multi-layered encryption techniques to meet the highest of security standards. The SaltDNA Desktop and Mobile apps are intuitive and easy to install and use. The SaltDNA Communication Manager provides a console for tight management of users and can be configured for the management of regulatory compliance. SaltDNA is headquartered in Belfast, Ireland, for more information visit saltdna.com.

Interested? Try SaltDNA for free