Even phone hackers can work remotely these days.
Researchers from NordVPN have been warning smartphone users to be careful of crafty cybercriminals, claiming they’re using a new technique that allows them to unlock certain smartphones from a distance.
Typically, when phones are hacked it’s done so by installing malware on the device through a charging cable.
Researchers say smartphone users should be aware of the technique, called GhostTouch — urging cell phone users to look out for phones unlocking by themselves.
“GhostTouch is the newest screen hacking attack that allows criminals to hack a user’s phone remotely,” a researcher told TechRader. “In simple terms, attackers use electromagnetic signals to simulate primary touch events like taps and swipes on targeted locations of the touchscreen.”
The researchers say the goal of the hackers is to take remote control of the smartphone to “manipulate it in potentially dangerous ways,” such as accessing the device’s data and passwords, accessing unsafe services or installing malware.
The scheme, called GhostTouch, was discovered by academics from Zhejiang University (China) and the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany).
To use the GhostTouch method, the hacker would just have to be in close proximity to their intended victim. They could put their equipment in public places to send electromagnetic signals to phones, which experts warn users “may not even notice.”
“Unfortunately, the most common places for touchscreen hacking are public places like libraries, cafes or conference lobbies, where people place their smartphones face-down on the table,” Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity expert at NordVPN explained. “The attackers prepare the equipment under the table in advance and launch the attack remotely.”
According to NordVPN, the attack works from a distance of “up to 40 mm,” and the hardware could be placed under the table and used to access the smartphone.
Once the connection is made, the hackers can hack the target smartphone from wherever they are. NordVPN said nine smartphone models have been confirmed so far to be susceptible to the hack, including iPhone SE (2020), Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G, Redmi 8 and Nokia 7.2.
Experts say the best way to protect your information against GhostTouch is to make sure your smartphone has a security mechanism, either a PIN code, a swipe pattern or biometrics.