6 Ways To Tell If Your Phone Is Hacked—And What To Do Next | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

These days, most people are highly reliant on their phone. Three quarters of phone users worldwide use them to chat or send messages, six in ten for banking and nearly half for navigation, according to Statista. Indeed, according to Pew Research, 15% of U.S. adults are “smartphone-only” internet users who depend on their phone as they don’t have a home broadband service. All this means that if something goes wrong and your phone is hacked, your life can be upended — and your bank account cleaned out. Here’s a look at how to know if your phone is hacked, how to avoid it and what to do if the worst happens.

Can Someone Hack My Phone?

Cyber criminals have a variety of ways to take control of, or steal information from, a victim’s phone. All types of phone, whether iPhone or Android, are vulnerable — although Apple phones are generally perceived as being safer, thanks to stronger security controls.

There are a number of different phone hacking techniques. One of the most common is to fool the user into clicking on a malicious link, or into downloading software from a fake app store or elsewhere through what’s known as social engineering, often through the use of phishing emails. Fake public wifi networks can often fool the unsuspecting. Another technique involves a SIM swap, in which an attacker persuades a victim’s mobile provider to transfer their SIM card to a device under their control; infected USB cables or charger cables can also allow an attacker access. And once an attacker has found a way in, a user’s data can be exposed, especially where passwords have been reused.

How To Check If Your Phone Has Been Hacked

Perhaps the most high-profile hack of a phone came in 2019, when the Twitter account of the company’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, started tweeting out a string of bizarre posts. It was immediately clear that his account had been hacked.

In this case, the attackers appear to have used a SIM swap, which was only possible through a “security oversight” by his mobile carrier. More commonly, a phone user becomes suspicious after spotting one or more of the symptoms below.

There can be a number of signs that a phone has been hacked — but they don’t necessarily appear in every case and, when they do, they can be easy to miss. Basically, it’s a question of looking for unusual behavior from your phone.

1. Check The Phone’s Battery

One common symptom that your phone has been hacked is a fast-draining battery. This can also cause the phone to overheat. If you suddenly see a noticeable difference, there may be a problem.

2. Review Your Phone Bill

Another sign of a phone hack is higher-than-usual bills, as your phone carries out unauthorized activities. A jump in the amount of bandwidth you’re using could be a sign that the phone is sending unwanted communications.

3. Audit The Apps On Your Phone

If you phone is hacked, new apps may appear unexpectedly, existing apps may take a long time to load and apps may open or close on their own. Be on the lookout for suspicious behavior.

4. Recognize Rogue Notifications And Settings

Sometimes unexpected notifications, unrequested two factor authentication codes or pop-ups may start to appear, and settings such as camera or microphone permissions may change.

5. Check Your Accounts

The biggest red flag of all is to find yourself unexpectedly locked out of your Apple ID or Google account, or out of other online accounts.

6. Run Antivirus Software

Installing and running a reputable security software package should reveal for sure whether a phone has actually been hacked. Find and remove any malware or spyware that may have infected the phone using popular packages are available from the likes of:

Delete anything suspicious, restart the phone, and then run the software again to make sure that the phone really is now clean.

What Should You Do If Your Phone Is Hacked?

If you discover that your phone has been hacked, there are a number of important steps that need to be made immediately to try and prevent the hackers from causing any more damage than necessary.

1. Check With Your Financial Institutions

The first port of call may well be your bank, credit card and other financial institutions to make sure your accounts haven’t been accessed.

2. Change Your Passwords

Your next move, and one of the most important, is to change all passwords immediately to new, strong ones. This should be done for all all apps and websites that are connected to the infected phone.

3. Remove Suspicious Apps

Do an audit of all of the apps on your phone, and remove any that are suspicious or unknown. Restart the phone and check again to make sure the deletions were successful.

4. If All Else Fails, Factory Reset The Phone

If there really are lots of pop-ups or malicious apps and all else fails, you could restore your phone to its factory settings — although as this means losing everything stored on the device, it’s very much the nuclear option.

5. Alert Your Friends

It’s a good idea to let your friends and other contacts know that your phone has been hacked, and warn them to ignore and delete any messages that appear to be coming from your phone.

How You Can Protect Your Phone From Future Hackers

Whether or not you’ve been hacked already, there are a number of basic cybersecurity measures you can take to keep your phone safe from attackers in future. The first, and most straightforward, is to make sure you have a good security package, like one of those listed above, installed, and keep it updated.

It’s important, indeed, to keep up to date with all software updates, as these often fix known vulnerabilities. Make sure your passwords are strong. Be wary of public charging stations and public wifi, and as an extra precaution, you might wish to turn off your wifi and Bluetooth when not in use. For extra protection, you could encrypt your phone, lock your SIM card and use a virtual private network, which should make public wifi safer to use. And be very wary of third-party app stores: playing it safe with Google Play and Apple’s App Store is always the best bet.

Bottom Line

Falling victim to a phone hack can have a devastating impact, affecting everything from friendships to your bank account. Fortunately, it’s possible to recover, and there are ways to make it much less likely that it happens again.


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