Sometimes we fail to appreciate the fact that today, right now, we're living in a sci-fi universe. The smartphone is a miracle of mathematics and engineering genius, converting a little over 4 ounces of inert matter into a Star Trek-level wondercomputer. But the downside of storing your entire world inside an ass-pocket-dwelling supercomputer is that there are always those who are itching to turn that technology against you in ways you'd never expect, like ...
5Your Phone's Tilt Sensor Can Sense What You're Typing on Your Computer
If you work a desk job, chances are you keep your smartphone handy on your desk while you're working. And why not? If you get a call, it's hard to pull your phone out of your pocket with your butt custom molded and sweat glued to your chair. The whole point of a mobile phone is convenience, so there's really no reason not to keep it right there by the keyboard.
That is, there wasn't until a cadre of supervillains (ahem, "researchers") from Georgia Tech decided to create a program that turns your innocent-looking smartphone into a nosy little asshole that sits there spying on your every keystroke. Passwords, email messages, IMVU sex chats -- your phone could be eavesdropping on all of it. You might suspect that some kind of camera or microphone hack is at play here, but the real modus operandi is even sneakier: As you clack away on the keyboard, your phone's accelerometer can pick up the tiny impacts resounding through your desk and, based on the distance of the keys from the phone, mathemagically deduce which keys you're stroking.
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Phones with motion sensitivity on the level of an iPhone 4 can guess what you're typing with up to 80 percent accuracy. And this clever bit of spyware can easily Trojan horse its way onto your phone as part of an otherwise trustworthy-looking app, since it doesn't arouse your tinfoil-hat suspicions by asking for permission to use your camera or microphone. The humble tilt sensor is rarely protected against privacy intrusions, because who would ever have guessed that the little gizmo that flips your screen over when you turn your phone sideways could also be used as a goddamn drunken Facebook status update interceptor?
Of course, the algorithm for figuring out what you're typing based on tiny desk tremors is mind-bogglingly complicated, and the whole system is easily defeated by ... just not setting your phone next to your keyboard, so the chances of such an attack by your local garden-variety hacker are low. But since we already know that the government is trying to listen in on us at all times, we're typing up this article with a phone next to the keyboard just to let them know that we know.
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It's called subtlety, guys.
4Smartphones Can Steal Your Credit Card Information Just by Being Near Them
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By this point, you might be ready to chuck your smartphone out the nearest window and go back to living without one like folks did in the Stone Age (the '90s were the Stone Age, right?). The only problem with that strategy is that every smartphone out there is a potential threat to you whether you own one or not. For example, did you know that any old Joe Android can brush against you in a grocery store and remotely steal the data right off your credit card with his phone? And that once that information is on his phone, he can wave it at a register and pick up $300 worth of Slim Jims and Mountain Dew on your tab?
Don't worry, not all of your cards are vulnerable. But if you're one of the millions of people carrying a futuristic "contactless" card -- the kind you just wave in front of a terminal to pay for stuff, such as American Express' ExpressPay -- then you'd better keep that fucker in a lead-lined wallet because, as you may have already realized, they're designed to have their radio chips scanned from inches away.
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Anniversary provided by "Some Dude."
That means all it takes is a modern phone with near field communication (NFC) capabilities and a special scanning program, and voila -- a crook can use thief magic to pass right through a solid wallet to steal your credit card with goddamn radio waves, and you don't even get the satisfaction of a fleeting grope. Yep, in our technological age, even the intimate act of digging inside a stranger's pocket has become detached and impersonal for the sake of convenience.
Now, before you ask: Yes, someone has already created this, and yes, you can totally download it for free if you know where to look. The program's creator, Eddie Lee, demonstrated the hack with his own phone at DefCon 2012, then released his simple app on the Internet as a flashing "Fuck you, fix this!" sign to credit card companies.
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"It's like Candy Crush, only with people's lives!"
The program is also capable of shipping card data to someone else's phone, meaning you can go on a shopping spree on Madison Avenue with a card your buddy just swiped from Sunset Boulevard. Now that's modern convenience, folks!