Phone hack: How to know if your phone is hacked, what to do, and more questions answered

Discover how hacking occurs and how it could be prevented

Phone hacking has become relatively common these days. According to cell phone hacking statistics, more than 60 percent of fraud comes from mobile devices. The world is going digital, and so are conmen. Of the world’s cyber attacks, around 60 percent are on mobile devices. So what should you do if your smartphone gets hacked? Well, apart from visiting a mobile service centre, there’s little else that you can do. Read on to discover how hacking occurs and how it may be prevented.

How to know if your phone is hacked

Phone Hack

To find out whether your phone has been hacked or not, there are some simple steps to follow:

Strange and inappropriate pop-ups

One sure-shot sign of a hacked phone is constant pop-ups. Bright flashing ads or X-rated content indicates that your phone may have been hacked.

Texts or calls you do not make

You will probably remember the number of times you used your phone throughout the day. So if you see calls or texts from your phone that you haven’t made, your phone may have been hacked.

Higher data usage than usual

High data usage can have multiple reasons. However, if your phone behaviour has stayed the same, but your data use has gone up, it’s time to investigate.

Apps you don’t recognise

New phones come with pre-downloaded apps. However, if you notice new apps popping up once you’ve bought the phone, your phone may have been hacked. 

Quick battery draining

Phone batteries are designed quite efficiently. If your phone habits have remained constant, but your battery drains super fast, your phone may have been hacked.

What happens if your phone is hacked? 

Phone hacking involves methods where someone has unauthorized access to your phone. From modern security breaches to simply eavesdropping on unsafe networks, phone hacking may involve actual physical phone theft and forcing their way into it. When your phone is hacked, you’ll notice it runs abnormally slow. A breached phone gives all its processing power to the hacker’s applications. Unaccounted-for screen freeze, system crashes, and hard restarts can all point toward a hacked phone.

A hacked phone will show strange activity on your online accounts. Hackers who access a phone try to steal access to your social accounts. Verify your social media and email and see if you have any password reset prompts, new/strange login locations, or fresh account signup verifications. . If your phone gets hacked, hackers can use the valuable information they get from your phone to access your bank account or online payment portals. 

What happens if your phone is hacked? 

If you notice that your phone is hacked, visit the service centre immediately and get it looked at. A hacked phone can cause security breaches, so ensure you get your phone checked and repaired if you find it hacked. 

If that’s not an option, here’s what you can do:

  • Scan your phone with an anti-virus app
  • Reset your phone
  • Delete suspicious apps
  • Change password
  • Request contacts to ignore messages

What happens if your phone is hacked?

Stay up to date

Always install software updates as soon as they appear on the app store. Updating might be annoying and intrusive, bringing annoying changes to the interface that you’re habituated to. However, hackers exploit pre-patched vulnerabilities. Don’t use tools to “root” or jailbreak your phone. Technical safety barriers can be avoided on a jailbroken phone, allowing apps to do whatever they want. 

Be wary of the applications you put in place

Whenever you install a smartphone app, you have to give it various permissions, including the ability to scan your files and use your phone camera or mic. There are legit uses for these, but they’re also open to abuse – so think carefully before approving requests. This is especially dicey on Android phones, allowing you to install apps from third-party sources and providing an easy way for rogue apps to access your phone. 

Review what is already on your phone

Even though apps on your phone might seem simple and safe when you install them, updates may have turned them into something unsafe. Take some time to review all apps on your smartphone and see the permissions they’re using. Specific tools can be helpful if you’re trying to install and use malware. These tools can warn you of a “phishing” attack that tries to fool you into entering your password into a shady app or webpage. 

Make it challenging for intruders to breach your phone

Thieves that get physical access to your phone can cause a lot of trouble. A phone that isn’t being used should be locked. YOu can set a six-digit passcode on both Apple and Android phones. Be careful of “smart unlock” features that depend on your smartwatch’s proximity to lock or unlock your phone.

Get ready to track and lock your phone

Plan in advance so that your data is safe even if your phone gets robbed. One option is to set the phone to automatically erase all data after several inaccurate attempts to enter the passcode. Apple and Google have “Find my Device,” which can find your phone on a map and lock or erase it remotely.

Leaving online services unlocked is unsafe

Auto-login is very convenient. Don’t use these. Use a password manager who needs you to frequently upload a master password. Don’t use a common password for applications/services. Hackers can use that password to gain unlawful access to your personal information if that password gets cracked. Hackers regularly breach online services to pilfer user credentials, so be careful about keeping your smartphone secure. 

Adopt an alter ego

If someone can guess your date of birth, hometown, and mother’s maiden name, they can set a fresh password and begin accessing your accounts. Fictionalise your past by providing details that you are not likely to guess. For instance, you were born in 2001 to Jennifer Lopez for security purposes.

Be careful of open wifi

Using an open wireless network is always risky. People close by can see your activity. Utilise the cellphone’s native internet connection or use a VPN tool so the traffic goes via a private encrypted channel. This way, anyone monitoring your traffic cannot view what you’re doing.

Set your lock screen notifications to reveal nothing

A phone’s lock screen has a lot of app pop-up messages and notifications. Always ensure that your lock screen does not give any information to potential hackers. On iOS, disable Siri access from the lock screen. 

Lock individual apps

Using strong passcode can keep thieves from using your phone. However, if they guess the code, you’re in trouble. In Android, you can lock individual apps. This facility isn’t in iOS, but they can use something called Folder Lock, which password-protects documents and folders. 

Get notified if your device disappears

Apple Watch and Android Wear can inform you instantly if Bluetooth contact with your phone is lost. If this notification arrives while you’re in a public place, it means you’ve been pick-pocketed. Try ringing the phone right away to draw attention to the thief. 

Keep your eyes peeled

It doesn’t matter how careful you are. You’re never totally immune to hackers. You can boost your device’s security measures with services available online. LogDog monitors your identity on sites like Gmail, Facebook, and Dropbox and alerts you to suspicious activity like logins from unfamiliar places. LogDog also scans emails and highlights messages containing sensitive information so you can delete them before they fall into the wrong hands. 

FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions by users who have encountered a phone hack situation or are just being prepared to avoid one. Read on!

1. How do phones get hacked?

It isn’t necessary that hackers have to physically possess your phone to steal personal data. They can target the data stored remotely. Passwords, bank account details, SSNs, text messages, and photos – hackers can steal anything if you aren’t careful enough. Cybercriminals have formulated new ways to break into people’s smartphones and surveil them.

Usually, they look to exploit some vulnerabilities in the phone OS to hack it or trick people into installing malicious software on their devices. With technology evolving, hacking into someone’s phone is child’s play. Several applications may be implemented to access a smartphone using just a telephone number. Some common ways that hackers can access your phone are through –  

  • Public WiFi Networks – Cyber Criminals create phoney Wi-Fi networks. On connecting to these, you get redirected to a malicious site/site. 
  • SIM Swaps – Hackers can shift your cell number to their devices and get access to your account.
  • Phishing emails or texts – Hackers send you a malicious link and try to get you to click it. Such emails or texts look legitimate, so it is difficult to differentiate between an accurate site and a malicious one. 

2. What can hackers do with your phone?

Hackers can use your phone against you in various ways. Here are a few –

  • Rerouting your messages – Scammers can access your phone and reroute your calls and messages. They can call the phone company pretending to be you, take over your communications, and cause havoc. 
  • Steal your personal information – Hackers can use your phone to steal sensitive information like card details, email ID and password, social media accounts access, etc. 
  • SIM Swaps – SIM swapping happens when scamsters use the ‘porting” feature of your mobile carrier to access your phone number. Scammers use porting and take your number with a fresh SIM. 
  • Text scams and spyware – Hackers use fake text message scams to fool people into sharing sensitive information online or downloading malware on their phones.
  • Doxxing – leading to harassment and fraud – Doxxing is when hackers reveal your private information online, making it public for all to view. Doxxing can lead to badgering, cheating, and other flagrant privacy breaches. 
  • Using your sensitive data for blackmail – Blackmailing is common among hackers. If sensitive information like pictures and videos fall into their hands, they may threaten to reveal these to the public unless you give them a ransom. 
  • Spoofing caller ID numbers – Spoofing is a common scam in which hackers alter the caller ID on the recipient’s phone, showing it as if the call is coming from an organisation of repute. This enables hackers to call their targets with the caller ID spelling IRS, FBI, or some regulatory body. 
  • Preying on your family – Fraudsters are clever. They may not target you directly with your phone number. They’ll target family instead. They use your number to fool close friends and family into divulging private information or sending funds. 

3. Are antivirus apps effective against hacking?

Yes, antivirus apps like LapDog can help protect you against hacking. Other applications/programs are – 

  • BitDefender Mobile Security – Apart from stopping malware attacks, Bitdefender gives you web protection that warns you about dangerous websites before you visit them. This app utilises power management to use very little of your phone’s battery, so it doesn’t become slow. 
  • Avast Mobile Security Ultimate – IN the basic version of the app, you get a free mobile security program that blocks malware and spam messages. Avast’s Ultimate program has a VPN to hide your online activity. You also get a password manager to keep an account of login credentials and a data shield to protect pictures, contact information, and other sensitive files. 
  • McAfee Mobile Security – This program has a Theft Cam tool that takes photos of anyone trying to access your phone without your permission. McAfee Mobile Security app sends the photo and your phone’s location so you can track down the thief. If anyone tries to access your phone, McAfee will lock it down after three unsuccessful attempts to enter a password. 
  • Malwarebytes Security – Apart from stopping virus infection, Malwarebytes is good at rounding up malware that has infected your phone. Recognising adware or malicious files used to keep a tab on your app use and online behavior- then create targeted ads based on that data. Malwarebytes removes them so you can free space on your phone and have a little privacy. 
  • Norton Mobile Security and Antivirus – This antivirus do a great job of preventing malware from downloading on your phone. Norton Mobile Security has tools to monitor your Wi-Fi connection so hackers cannot get through. You also get a system advisor who provides invaluable tips to protect your device. 

4. Does airplane mode block hackers?

Yes, airplane mode temporarily blocks hackers when enabled, and the device isn’t connected to Wi-Fi or mobile networks. However, this isn’t a very effective deterrent simply because you can’t keep your phone on airplane mode constantly, it defeats the very purpose of having a smartphone. 

5. Can hackers see you through your phone camera?

Webcams and phone cameras are susceptible to hacking, giving hackers complete control over their functions. Resultantly, hackers may use your device’s camera to spy on you and search for personal information. 

6. Is there an app to see if your phone has been hacked?

The fastest and easiest way to determine whether you’ve been hacked is to install a security or antivirus app. This will scan your device to determine if malware is installed on your system.