Hacking NFC phones, sneaking malware into Google Play and more: This is the beginning

Mike Dano

Mobile security firms have long warned of the threat of cell phone hacking. For example, in 2004 anti-virus company F-Secure Corp. said it discovered a Trojan computer virus for mobile phones running the Series 60 version of the Symbian operating system. The company said the bug replaced menu icons on the phone with a skull-and-crossbones symbol.

More recently, there have been a handful of well-documented cases of troublesome smartphone code, including malicious apps dropping on Android and established app makers surreptitiously storing users' personal information.

And it seems things are just getting started.

The recent hacker convention in Las Vegas, hosted by Black Hat and Defcon, offered a clear insight into the shady and nefarious realm of cell phone hacking. And the fact that smartphones are now practically ubiquitous among Americans appears to have motivated these hackers to find and exploit every nook and cranny in iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

"When I'm sleeping [my mobile phone] is on my nightstand; when I am traveling around it's in my pocket," Nicholas Percoco, an ethical hacker and security researcher, told NPR. "So the ability to do things to a mobile phone becomes even more enticing to a criminal."

So how exactly are hackers breaking into phones? According to the lengthy list of hacks presented at the Black Hat and Defcon convention, there appear to be security holes everywhere. In fact, the list of successful hacks presented at just this one event is enough to make even the most jaded wireless industry journalist take pause. For example: