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Hackers have new way to steal info from smartphones

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Smartphones are like mini-computers, full of data, emails and other personal information users like to keep private.

But cyber security experts tell CBS 5 News there's a new threat not everyone knows about and that has phone customers like Ethan Horwitz of Phoenix feeling a bit uneasy.

"If they can get my information through Verizon on my phone, they can get into my Verizon account and my credit card info and bill payments," said Horwitz. "It's completely an invasion of privacy."

Hackers are using small devices known as wireless network extenders to gain unauthorized access to smartphones.

These devices are microcells that you buy from your cell phone provider and are intended to help extend coverage in areas where it's not so good.

A lot of office complexes and businesses use them when their building has bad reception.

Cyber security expert Brett Scott with Live Square Security said that hackers have found a way to intercept the data connection from someone's phone to these devices, allowing them access to someone's personal information.

"What the bad guys will do is place compromised devices near you, or in public places, and you'll never know they were there," said Scott. "They'll simply be there compromising you."

"The primary issue is what the technology providers use to secure it is literally from the 1970s," Scott said. "They use a 56-bit encryption, which is extremely primitive and very easy to crack."

Scott said it takes a cyber thief about six hours to infiltrate one of the devices.

Verizon recently told CNN that they are aware of the security breaches and have taken steps to fix the issue.

Scott said that cell phone customers are still at risk.

"There's absolutely nothing visible to the phone," said Scott. "You never really know that your info has been taken."

According to cyber security experts, the best thing phone users can do is download an application on your smartphone that will encrypt your data.

To learn more about encrypting data, visit http://www.cellcrypt.com/ or http://www.techsecure.net/

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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