How To Know if Your Phone Is Hacked

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  • Posted by: Evans Asare
How To Know if Your Phone Is Hacked

How To Know if Your Phone Is Hacked (and What To Do).

Is Your Phone Safe From Hackers?

Hackers, scammers, and criminals know that your phone is a goldmine of personal data that offers access to your most sensitive accounts.

Phone hackers create fake or malicious apps, and use fake installers, dangerous links, and lookalike app stores to try and dupe you into downloading malware that gives them access to your phone — and everything on it.

But the unsettling truth is that hackers don’t always need to use sophisticated scams to hack your phone. Clicking on malicious links on fake websites, ads, emails, or text message phishing scams can often be all it takes to lose control of your mobile device.

How To Tell If Your Phone Is Hacked:

Hacks happen when bad actors — such as hackers, cybercriminals, or even friends — access your phone or your phone’s data without your permission.

While phone hacking can be hard to spot, there are some telltale signs that your mobile security has been compromised:

  1. Your phone’s battery loses charge faster than usual. Reduced battery life is one of the first signs that your phone has been hacked. Malicious apps that run in the background can churn up processing power and memory, increasing battery usage as a result.
  2. Your bill shows higher than expected data usage. Hacked devices will often use more data than you typically use. If you start to get warnings from your phone carrier about high data usage, or if you receive a larger bill than expected, check your device settings to see which apps are using up your data. 
  3. Your device is acting strangely and working slowly. Poor performance, unusual activity, and device crashes are all signs of a compromised phone (for example, apps take a long time to load or switch). 
  4. An abnormally hot phone. Malware will use up or strain your phone’s resources. If your phone is warm or even hot to the touch, this could be a sign that it’s been hacked.
  5. You’re seeing new apps on your phone. Be especially aware of unrecognized or suspicious apps on your home screen. Some malicious apps will install new apps, with the hacker hoping that you don’t care or notice.
  6. You constantly have to quit or close specific apps. If an app opens without your clicking on it, it may be part of a hacking attack. Also beware if your mobile browser keeps opening tabs or websites on its own. 
  7. You receive strange notifications and pop-ups. Phone updates can sometimes alert you of hacking. For example, some malicious apps automatically copy data to your clipboard. But a recent iOS update will alert you if an app is “looking at” clipboard data. Don’t ignore these messages.
  8. You’re locked out of your Apple ID or Google account. Hackers will often quickly change your passwords and lock you out of critical accounts. If you can’t access your Apple or Google account, consider it a red flag.
  9. You can’t log into your online accounts. Hackers use a compromised phone to gain access to your other accounts (known as Account Takeover Fraud). If your passwords aren’t working for your email or social media accounts, it could be a sign that your phone was hacked.
  10. You receive 2FA codes you didn’t request. If you start to receive two-factor authentication codes on your phone or in your email, it could be a sign that a hacker has your password and is trying to log into one of your accounts. Don’t enter the code, and change the account password immediately.  
  11. Your camera or microphone indicator light turns on. Stalking and monitoring apps will use your microphone or camera in the background. If your indicator lights or icons randomly turn on, this could be a sign of a hacked phone.
  12. You find strange photos and videos in your gallery. If hackers hack your phone, they may use it to spy on you or take photos and videos without your knowledge. If you keep finding strange photos and videos in your gallery (or in a cloud backup service like iCloud or Google Photos), it could mean your phone’s camera has been hacked. 
  13. Your phone number and other information was leaked in a data breach. While not exactly a sign that your phone is hacked, if your personal information is on the Dark Web — such as your name, address, or Social Security number (SSN) — it means you could be an easy target for hackers.

How To Remove a Hacker From Your Phone.

  • Uninstall any unrecognized or resource-draining apps: Remove anything you don’t recognize. If you’re unsure about an app, Google it or look it up in Google Play Store or the App Store to check that it’s legitimate.
  • Clear your browsing history, cache, and downloads. Malware can hide in areas of your phone that you don’t normally use. Clearing your browsing history and cache, as well as your downloads, can remove malicious software that’s hiding there. 
  • Download security software and run an antivirus scan to isolate malware. Use antivirus software offered by digital safety providers like Aura to find and remove any malware or spyware that has infected your phone. 
  • Remove unrecognized devices from your Apple ID or Google Account. Scammers who get access to your Apple or Google accounts will connect them to their own devices for easier access. Check for unfamiliar devices in your Google activity log or Apple ID device list, and sign them out.
  • Reset your phone to its factory settings (or to a pre-infected backup). Once you’ve removed as many vulnerabilities as you can, reset your device to clear out any lingering hacks. If you’re restoring to a backup (or just bought a new phone), make sure the backup is make before your device was hack. 
  • Update your operating system and software. Malware and hacks rely on outdated software. Don’t ignore updates for both your device and any apps you use.  
  • Change your passwords and enable 2FA. If you suspect that one of your accounts is being targeted, change your password immediately and enable 2FA.
  • Set up a password manager. These tools securely store your passwords and alert you to accounts that could be compromise. In addition, a password manager won’t automatically enter your password on phishing sites. 
  • Contact your bank and any businesses that may have been impacted. If hackers gained access to your accounts, you’ll want to report the fraud to your bank and any other impacted companies. 
  • Sign up for credit monitoring and identity theft protection. Credit monitoring actively looks for and alerts you to signs of fraud on all your accounts. If your phone has been hack, this will help you stop scammers from committing financial fraud
  • Consider locking your credit. If your phone was hack, chances are that scammers are now in possession of your PII, which could enable them to apply for lines of credit in your name. Initiating a credit lock will get ahead of any threats before they happen.

What Can Someone Do If They Hack Your Phone?

Hackers know that your phone is a single access point for your most important data and accounts. When bad actors hack your phone, they can commit all sorts of scams, including:

  • Device takeovers: Sometimes hackers are only interested in using your device — not accessing your data. Scammers use hacked devices for cryptojacking (mining cryptocurrency in the background), ad-spamming, or as a means to carry out other cyber attacks.
  • Data leaks and exposure: The data on your device — passwords, PINs, passcodes, etc. — are valuable currency for scammers. They can use your information to steal your identity or even sell it on the Dark Web to other hackers.
  • Accessing sensitive photos for extortion: We often keep sensitive photos or information on our cell phones. Scammers can use these for extortion — or leak them online. (This is what happened during CelebGate, when major celebrities had their iCloud accounts hacked.)
  • Spying and stalking: A former lover or controlling family member might install spying software on your phone to keep tabs on you. These sorts of phone hacking scams can put you at risk of physical harm.
  • Breaking into your workplace: Hackers know that we use our personal devices for work, so they could target you to get access to your company’s data and networks. Around 32% of remote and hybrid workers opt for apps or software that haven’t received approval from their IT departments [*].
  • Identity theft and financial fraud: There’s more than enough information on your phone to allow scammers to steal your identity or access your financial accounts. If they get access to your phone, hackers can engage in credit card fraud or even drain your bank accounts.

To Protect Your Phone, Do This:

First, become familiar with the signs of a scam or phishing site. Most hacks use social engineering to trick you into giving up your account information or passwords. Don’t send sensitive information to anyone you don’t know personally, especially if they reach out to you.  

Next, don’t put your phone in risky or vulnerable situations — such as downloading apps outside of an official app store, using public Wi-Fi, or charging your phone at public charging stations. Also, always be aware of where your phone is and who has access to it.

Finally, make your devices and accounts more secure. You can use a VPN when browsing in public as well as antivirus software to protect you from malware. Make sure your passwords are complex and unique, and enable two-factor or multifactor authentication (2FA/MFA) for added security.

  • Use an ad-blocker or a privacy-focused mobile browser. Privacy browsers, like Firefox or Brave, have additional privacy features that limit data sharing and tracking and can block adware.
  • Ask your mobile provider for a “port freeze.” This requires extra authentication (such as a PIN) before anyone can make changes to your account, including swapping your SIM.
  • Enable biometric security (like fingerprint ID). If someone steals your phone, it will be much harder to break into it if you have fingerprint or facial recognition ID enabled.
  • Regularly check your credit report and bank statements. Scammers are almost always after your financial accounts. Check for the warning signs of identity theft — such as strange charges on your bank statement or accounts you don’t recognize. An identity theft protection service like Aura can monitor your credit and statements for you and alert you to any signs of fraud.
  • Maintain regular updates of your device. Backups can save you from a huge hassle if your phone is hack or infected with malware.
  • Use an authenticator app instead of SMS for 2FA. If you receive 2FA codes over SMS and hackers gain access to your phone, they can bypass your security. Instead, use an authenticator app, which requires stronger security measures, such as biometric identification.
  • Set up auto-updates. This will ensure that you’re not running an outdated operating system or using apps that could be vulnerable to hackers.
Author: Evans Asare

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