Crooks can use your phone to send text
Posted Tuesday, December 6 2011 at 22:30
Mobile telephone users often send Short Text Messages dozens of times a day, secure in the knowledge that their SMSs are secret and private. This is no longer the case.
The Nation has established that some messages you receive may not be coming from the person shown as the sender on your phone book.
It is now possible for fraudsters to fake the identity of different mobile phone owners and send messages, some ill-intentioned, to offend the receivers.
This is the shock that you can experience when a hacker uses your number to send an inciting or offending text to a close friend while deceiving that friend it’s you.
On Tuesday, information technology expert Peter Kamakia demonstrated the trick the fraudsters use to fake mobile phone messages.
In just five minutes, the man was able to send messages from his mobile number, which carried the identities of three different people.
The fraud is now known as “tweaking” in the industry.
It refers to adjusting a complex system, usually an electronic device to suit ones needs.
For one to engage in tweaking, all they need is a mobile phone connected to the Internet. They can then connect to a specific address to tweak the SMS.
Mr Kamakia, 38, warned that the fraud was likely to be taken advantage of by criminals to spread hate speech, especially during the run up to next year’s General Election and spark ethnic violence.
He requested that we keep the address anonymous. “A hacker can pick on the telephone number of a presidential candidate and send out an SMS claiming that such a candidate has dropped out of the race when that is not true,” Mr Kamakia, a former student of Starehe Boys Centre said.
In one of his fake messages of demonstration, he picked a mobile number from a colleague which he used in sending a message saying: “I have dropped out of the race”, purportedly signed by a local politician eying the presidency next year.
But checking under “sent items” of the person whose phone was “used” to send out the message, it had not registered as one of the sent items.
However, Mr Kamakia said, original phones had International Mobile Equipment Identity (Imei) which could be used to track the sender of such fake messages.
He said Imei is usually printed inside the battery compartment of a phone. It can also be displayed on the screen of the phone by entering *#06#.
“The Imei number is used by the Global System for Mobile Communications network to identify valid devices and therefore can be used for stopping a stolen phone from accessing the network or identifying the owner,” Mr Kamakia said.
The IT expert said one of the ways of addressing the issue was by immobilising fake mobile phones.
He said he planned to meet the National Integration and Cohesion Commission to show how the system could be used to spread hate messages.