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This Simple Step Can Help You Protect Your Phone From Being Invaded by Hackers, Experts Say

People logo People 7/28/2021 Abigail Adams
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If you're wondering how to keep your cellphone secure, look no further than one of the oldest trick in the book: turn the phone off, then turn it back on.

It's that simple, according to Sen. Angus King. The Maine independent and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he learned the trick during a briefing by security staff earlier this year.

Sen. King told the Associated Press he has now made it a habit, doing it "probably once a week" or just "whenever I think of it."

Experts confirmed to the AP that the simple act can help hinder hackers that may attempt to steal information from smartphones. Though it is not a foolproof way of preventing cybercriminals from accessing sensitive information, it can make it more difficult for them to sustain access and steal your data.

a close up of a hand with a laptop on a table: Regularly performing the age-old trick can make it more difficult for cybercriminals to steal data © Getty Regularly performing the age-old trick can make it more difficult for cybercriminals to steal data

Companies like Apple and Google have developed security software strong enough to prevent malware from infecting core operating systems in their devices, but hackers have since adopted alternatives like "in-memory payloads," which are more difficult to track, the AP reported.

A simple reboot would disrupt the hack. However, it turns out many people seldom power down their devices.

"Adversaries came to the realization they don't need to persist," Patrick Wardle, a security expert and former NSA researcher, told the AP. "If they could do a one-time pull and exfiltrate all your chat messages and your contact and your passwords, it's almost game over anyways, right?"

"Zero-click" exploits, which do not require user interaction, are increasing as malware security in smartphones improves.

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According to the NSA's "best practices" guide for mobile devices, weekly reboots only work occasionally in preventing zero-click exploits. Regular software updates also are said to help prevent hacks.

Bill Marczak, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, said any unyielding hacker could send another zero-click exploit after a reboot.

"It's sort of just a different model, it's persistence through reinfection," he told the AP.

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