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In a startling revelation, IT security experts claimed that 99 per cent of sophisticated phones used in Sri Lanka are vulnerable to phone hacking.

This includes top level politicians, senior officers of armed services, high profile government officials and all the other parties who deal with highly confidential information, they warned.“Sri Lanka,” an information security expert said, “is a country that pays zero attention to phone security. And that makes the country vulnerable to phone hacking.”

He made these remarks when The Sunday Leader asked him about the controversy involving interception of phone calls made by senior members of the government – primarily to find evidence for war crimes allegations. He also indicated that some elements may have used phone-hacking as a ‘tool’ for collecting images and footage with regard to war crimes charges against armed forces of Sri Lanka. “Phone hacking does not stop at intercepting phone calls. It can also go to the extent of accessing text messages, stealing important data from phones and copying audio & video clips, etc. You are vulnerable to hacking regardless of the phone brand or the phone-type you are using. Also, it is extremely difficult to completely avoid hackers although you can adopt certain security measures to protect your important information,” he said.

He also added that in Sri Lanka, there are well-organized hacker groups who commit this crime on behalf of third parties. “Hacker groups can hack a mobile phone for money and they can go to any extent when committing this crime. The problem is this does not involve a massive cost and it is extremely difficult to apprehend them,” Annon said.

“This problem has been identified in other country although Sri Lanka, generally, is oblivious to the issue. Members of the French cabinet, at one point, were told to stop using a certain type of mobile phones because of fears that other countries could intercept state secrets. The SGDN, the French body responsible for national security, has also banned the use of personal data assistants by anyone in the president’s or prime minister’s offices on the basis of ‘a very real risk of interception’ by third parties,” he said adding that there are no ‘blanket solutions’ to avoid the phone hacking problem – but only individual solutions such as “protecting your own mobile phone”.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Shihan Annon (Director at Delta Spike Global Services), another IT security expert said, there are several ways of hacking a phone that do not involve a huge cost. “For instance one can hack a phone using Bluetooth attacks. That happens without the knowledge of the person who becomes the victim of the attack. If not, a hacker can access someone else’s phone using malware and malicious content. Creating a fake base-station and cloning a phone is another way of hacking a phone,” he said adding that phone hacking is something that Sri Lankan lawmakers should take into serious consideration.

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