Verizon is one of the biggest cell phone service providers in America, and recently discovered a vulnerability that put the data of 14 million customers at risk. Read more to find out if your data was involved in the breach, and what you can do to mitigate risk in the future.
Cell phones are an integral part of daily life. We use them to communicate, to network, and even to waste time. Regardless of how we use them, everyone does. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, more than 95% of Americans have a cellphone of some kind, and more than 99% of Americans between the ages of 18-49 own a phone and use it regularly.
Obviously, cell phones are an important part of life. What if you lost yours? What if you broke it? For some, we might lose business or at least a Snap Streak. But what if the cellphone lost you? What if it caused you to lose your personal data to the internet? For 14 million Verizon customers, this is now a reality.
A few days ago it was discovered that recorded calls from customers calling customer support were being stored on an unprotected AWS server, and anyone with the easily-guessable web address had access to 14 million customer’s personal data, including phone numbers, names, and their account PIN. This is perhaps the most dangerous piece of information of all, because it allows the user access to the account, and, according to the McAfee Security, it can even allow access to the phone. This means that potentially anyone who has accessed the server could hack your phone. They would have access to much more than just your phone number, and could even find your passwords or banking information, depending on what you have stored on your cell phone.
It’s hard to imagine that one of the biggest service providers in the world would have such a major oversight, especially with a major hosting provider like Amazon. So who is responsible? It turns out that an Israeli-based company, Nice Systems, was in charge of the data and managed the server where it was housed. Nice boasts 85 of the Fortune 100 companies as customers and more than a billion dollars in annual revenue.
Nice specializes in telephone voice recording and analysis, as well as data security. Verizon, as their customer, used their services to track customer data and convert recorded conversations to quantitative data. The 14 million customers that called in were U.S. based, and beyond their name, phone number, and account PIN, other data was gleaned from the recordings, including home address, email addresses, and even a customer frustration score, which is based on certain keywords and phrases spoken during the conversation.
Nice made a statement about the use of their products and services, saying, “Our products may also be intentionally misused or abused by clients who use our products.” Whether Nice was responsible for the breach is still unclear.
If you are a Verizon customer, and maybe have called them in the past 6 months (anytime in 2017), you could be at risk of identity theft or phone hacking. To protect yourself, there are a few things you can do. First, change your PIN. You can contact Verizon about this, because the server is now secured, according to statements by Verizon and Nice Systems. Also, make sure you limit the amount of personal information you give out, whether it’s by email, online, or even over the phone. Maybe this breach will serve as a good reminder to Verizon and to its customers, that we should all be careful what we say when we’re asked, “can you hear me now?”