With the recent reports of the US government snooping on mobile phone calls and messages, what can HNWs do to protect their communications from unwanted interception?

Governments snooping on other governments is nothing new. For Centuries countries have spied on each other, looking for inside information. The reported interception of Angela Merkel’s mobile phone communications last week may not be particularly surprising, but it does raise the question about whether any forms of modern digital communications are ever really private.

From a cyber-security perspective, if you are trying to communicate under the radar of any Western government, than the chances are you’re doing something that you shouldn’t. Ultimately, governments have such sophisticated ways of intercepting communications, (i.e. potentially even ways to siphon off data directly from phones at manufacturer level); there isn’t really any way to avoid being monitored.

For most high-net-worth families and individuals, protecting data is still in many ways very low on the priority list, and yet it can have a profound effect on physical and financial wellbeing. For example, when we engage with new clients the first activity we undertake is a review of the mobile phone security they have installed on their devices; 80% of new clients have no additional mobile phone security installed on their handsets. This is particularly alarming considering their mobile phones are often the central communication tool when conducting business or financial transactions.

Simple steps can be taken in order to improve the security levels of mobile phones; the basics are outlined below:

– Install mobile phone security software. Mobile phones are now almost as susceptible to viruses and hacking as computers. Do some research on the security software available for your handset, or speak with an expert about the most effective solution.
– Apply an unlimited pin code. Most handsets default to 4 digit pin codes, but in the settings menu this can be adjusted to include a larger pin code. Just by increasing 4 to 6 dramatically improves the security level of a phone, making it far harder for a criminal to crack a passcode.
– Avoid associating your name with your number on major phone networks. Criminals have been known to pay call centre staff and large mobile phone providers for the phone logs of high profile individuals; using a pseudonym or a third-party network helps protect your identity from this form of intrusion.
– Avoid using text messages for sensitive communications. The ability to fake text messages has been around for years, and is still used today by criminals to get victims to click on a link, or to do something that they think the “real” sender has requested them to do. Never click on a link within a text message.
– Meet face-to-face. It may sound odd to suggest, but for highly sensitive and private conversations, there is no better security protocol than meeting face-to-face in a private and secure location.

We have a trusted partner company who can advise on all matters of mobile phone security as well as provide superior levels of service and privacy on their private mobile phone network. It’s no surprise that following the recent reports that Angela Merkel’s phone amongst those of other world figures have been hacked that there has been a massive increase in enquiries this week.