60 Minutes’ hacks congressman’s I-phone to prove how easy it is to listen to all of your thoughts
By Cyra Master
“60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi traveled to Berlin, where she interviewed a team of hackers who are looking for vulnerabilities in mobile phone systems so they can warn the public of the risks they face.
The program sent an iPhone to Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Information Technology, who agreed to use it knowing it would be hacked.
The results were startling.
As soon as the hackers had the phone number, they accessed a flaw in a vital global network that connects phone carriers and accessed nearly everything in his phone. They were able to listen to and record calls, view his contacts and track his movements.
When the program played the lawmaker a recording of a phone call he had with a staffer, he had two reactions.
“First, it’s really creepy. And second, it makes me angry,” he said.
“They could hear any call of pretty much anyone who has a smartphone. It could be stock trades you want someone to execute. It could be calls with a bank. … Last year, the president of the United States called me on my cellphone. And we discussed some issues. So if the hackers were listening in, they would know that phone conversation. And that’s immensely troubling.”
Hacker John Hering, who cofounded the mobile security company Lookout, said the average person isn’t going to be targeted by such extreme attacks.
“But our goal was to show what’s possible. So people can really understand if we don’t address security issues, what the state of the world will be.”
The hackers created a “ghost” version of the hotel Wi-Fi and had Alfonsi connect – a process called “spoofing.” They immediately gained access to her email and pulled her credit card information, phone number and records about her movements from her ride-sharing apps. They also showed how they could take control of the camera on her phone and use it to broadcast a live video stream from the phone.
“We live in a world where we cannot trust the technology that we use,” Hering said.
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