I Can Hack Into Your Voicemail

With the same method used by hackers at News Corp’s British tabloid News of the World, I can hack into your cellphone’s voicemail. All I need to know is your phone number.

It works like this… If you want to access your own voicemail, you can simply dial your own number from your phone, press star or pound, and your voicemails will start playing. So if I want to access your voicemail, all I have to do is make the phone company think I’m calling from your number, and your messages will start playing for me.

Services like SpoofCard make it all too easy to do just that. About $5 buys 25 minutes of talk time, with a twist. Customers can set the number that shows up on caller ID to whatever they want. To hack your voicemail, I’d simply tell SpoofCard to fake your phone number for me. Then, when I call your number with the service, your phone company assumes I’m you and starts playing your messages.

Fortunately, preventing this kind of hack on your voicemail is as simple as changing your voicemail preferences to always require a PIN. Simply follow the not-as-complex-as-they-look instructions for your cell provider:

AT&T

To enable a password for all voicemail calls:

  1. Press and hold 1 to call into the voicemail system from your wireless device.
  2. Press * to skip to the main menu.
  3. Press 4 for personal options.
  4. Press 2 for administrative options.
  5. Press 1 for password options.
  6. Press 1 to turn password on or off.
  7. Press 2 to turn password on.
  8. When prompted, enter your 4- to 15-digit password, then press the # key.

Sprint

  1. Access your voicemail account from your Sprint phone.
  2. Once in the main menu, choose change personal options.
  3. Next, choose administrative options.
  4. You will hear skip passcode is currently turned on. To turn it off, follow the prompts.
  5. The passcode you originally created will be played to you. Be sure to remember it, as you will need to enter it to gain access to your voicemail in the future.

T-Mobile

To turn off / on your voice mail password security, follow these steps:

  1. Call your voice mailbox from your mobile phone by pressing and holding the 1 key or by dialing 123.
  2. Once you arrive at your voice mailbox, press the Star (*) key to ensure you are in the main menu area.
  3. To access the password security menu, press the 5 key.
  4. To toggle your password on or off, press the 2 key.

Verizon

Verizon is the one major cell carrier in the U.S. that requires you enter your PIN every time you access your voicemail. In fact, you have to jump through a little hoop if you want things set differently. So odds are, if you’re a Verizon customer, you’re already safe from this kind of attack on your voicemail.

Change Your Default PIN

But you’re only as safe as your PIN. If you’ve never set up a PIN for your voicemail account, you might have a default one; anyone could dial in from any number, use the default PIN, and listen to your messages. To keep your voicemail private, you should set up a PIN or change your default PIN as soon as you can.

If you set your PIN to something simple, like your address or birthday, you’re not completely at risk, but you are close. Try to use something unique that has no connection to your personal life. It doesn’t have to be hard to remember – something like 7676 works well – only unrelated to you. Taking this simple step can help make sure your private messages stay that way.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1153634003 Lori R Sacks

    I don’t know if T-mobile made a change to their voice-mail system but I set mine to use a PIN when I became a T-mobile user years ago and STILL have a PIN to access my voice-mail from my own cell phone.

    • Jered Morgan

      This is just yet another noob journalist not verifying facts before pressing publish.  T-mobile will let you turn skip password off, and in fact it’s not even on by default when setting up a new mailbox, it will ask you if you want to enter a PIN each time or not through the set up process. 

      • http://www.moneytalksnews.com/ Dan Schointuch

        I asked T-Mobile directly and here’s the answer they provided me (if it’s wrong, I’ll amend the story):

        “T-Mobile does not require a PIN to access voicemail if calling from your own phone. That said, if you call your voicemail from a different line, by default you are required to set up a password to access your voicemail. When you set up your voicemail, by default your password is the last 4 digits of your phone number, this PIN can be proactively changed to any four digit code you choose.  However, customers do not have to enter passwords when checking their mobile voicemail from their mobile device. T-Mobile encourages customers to proactively set a password in case their device is misplaced/stolen.”

      • http://www.moneytalksnews.com/ Dan Schointuch

        Yep. You guys are absolutely right. I’ve changed the story to provide instructions on how to require your PIN number with T-Mobile.