Smartphones are probably the most useful gadgets ever designed but, unfortunately, not the safest.
Given their overall popularity and the tremendous amount of sensitive information that we store with our phones, they’ve become a favored target for hackers and other cybercriminals.
Therefore, it’s important to understand various ways how your phone can be hacked as well as recognize the signs of outside intrusion into your device.
It’s only by knowing how cybercriminals operate that you can take effective measures to secure your personal data.
Why Do Phones Get Hacked
Today, you can hardly imagine your life without carrying a smartphone in a pocket.
It always comes in handy when you need to use online banking, go on shopping, check social media, or get in touch with somebody.
We spend a lot of our time with smartphones, and therefore they contain more information about us than any other digital device.
That being said, somehow our beloved smartphones, especially the ones that work on Android, are way less secure than laptops and personal computers, which means we are constantly putting ourselves at risk of getting our delicate data stolen.
So what are the main reasons why phones get hacked?
First of all, phones get hacked because they contain tons of sensitive information that can be profitable for malicious actors.
This, for example, can be your credit card details or account credentials that grant access to your financial assets.
Hackers can also steal your private photos, videos, or content of communication with other people to blackmail you into paying them.
With the rise of cryptocurrencies, your smartphone can also be used as a part of a botnet for mining crypto.
The second reason why hackers focus on breaching into people’s smartphones is a comparatively smaller amount of effort that needs to be put into the process.
Strangely enough, modern cybersecurity seems to be revolving more around computers and servers rather than smartphones.
That is why smartphone hacking is considered to be less complicated and, of course, hackers love it.
How Your Phone Can Be Hacked
There exist many different ways of how your phone can be hacked.
Here are the main ones:
- Malware & spyware
Mobile malware and spyware are two types of malicious programs developed to cause harm to a smartphone owner.
Spyware is a special piece of software that monitors activities on your smartphone, collects your sensitive information and sends it out to a spyware creator.
Malware is another type of malevolent software. It rather aims to harm your personal data and prevent the proper functioning of your phone.
Usually, both malware and spyware have to be physically installed on your phone.
- Suspicious sites & apps
Suspicious websites and apps they are hosting can also be a source of infection on your smartphone.
For example, clicking on the links and pop-ups that appear on such websites will trigger a hidden script that secretly downloads malicious software on your smartphone.
Harmful code could also be embedded into the apps that from the first glance seem to be completely innocuous.
- Sim jacking
Sim jacking (also sim swapping) is a hacker attack that transfers your mobile phone number to a sim card of a hacker.
After getting ahold of your phone number, the thief can reset your email password and get access to all accounts associated with your mailbox.
Phishing is a cybercrime in which cybercriminal hack your phone by texting you or sending you an email.
Phishing can also be performed through social media messages.
The content of phishing messages contains deceptive links that, when clicked, download and install malicious software behind the scenes.
- Fake public WiFi
Fake public WiFi is a false WiFi hotspot set up by a hacker in an attempt to snoop on your connection or redirect you to phishing websites.
When you connect your smartphone to such a hotspot, you expose yourself to different attacks and may have your data stolen.
Bluesnarfing is a cyberattack during which hacker exploits your Bluetooth vulnerabilities to get inside your smartphone.
- Malicious USB charging stations
Malicious USB charging stations are corrupted, fake USB charging stations hidden among public ones.
Hackers set up such stations to steal sensitive data from unaware people who want to charge their phones.
How To Know If Your Phone Is Hacked
So how to tell that someone has hacked your phone or that your phone has a virus?
Have you ever asked yourself “Is my phone hacked?”
Here are the main warning signs that suggest your smartphone might be hacked:
- Slow performance
If you’ve noticed that your phone performance became significantly slower, it may be a sign that your device has been hacked and there is malware running in the background.
The malware will cause such issues as constant freezes, and your apps may crash every time you try to use them.
- Enormous traffic usage
Your phone reports huge traffic usage, however, you rarely browse the Internet or use traffic-demanding apps.
Malware on a hacked device will constantly “communicate” with its creator, transferring data back and forth and granting him control of your smartphone.
It may also use the Internet to download other viral software on your phone.
- Battery drain
It’s absolutely normal that your phone battery life decreases over time.
However, if suddenly, you battery stopped lasting for as long as it did just a few days ago, it might mean that your smartphone had been infected with malware.
Malware will commonly use a lot of your smartphone resources to do its shady stuff, this includes your battery resource as well.
- Increased device temperature
If your smartphone heats up without any activity on your side, it is likely that some virus is working undercover inside your phone.
- Unwanted apps
If you’ve noticed some apps that you didn’t install, and there were no recent system updates during which those apps could be installed, your phone security might be compromised.
- Pop-ups and ads
Pop-ups and ads that constantly appear on your smartphone may be a sign that it was infected with adware.
- Strange phone behavior
There is a very high chance that your phone has been hacked if it crashes or reboots by itself. It may also turn some apps on without you knowing about it.
- Unexpected bills
Financial losses are one of the worst things that can happen to you if your phone has been hacked. For instance, you may discover some unexpected billings for products or services that you’ve never ordered.
- Background noise
If you hear some odd background noises on a phone call or while listening to the audio, your device could be eavesdropped on.
How To Find Out Who Hacked Your Phone
Finding a hacker is a hard and tedious task that can only be performed by cybersecurity professionals.
To get on the track of a cybercriminal, police experts will have to reverse engineer your device and get into the malware itself to find IP addresses it communicates with or other hints that may help the case.
After that, the police will have to understand the exact location of a hacker, which is also quite difficult.
Let’s not forget that experienced hackers will make everything possible to disguise all traces of the intrusion.
If you really want to figure out who hacked your phone, we will always recommend that you report your case to local law enforcement.
What To Do If Your Phone Has Been Hacked
Here is what you need to do if your phone has been hacked:
- Immediately change all your passwords
Change all of your passwords beginning with those that are most important.
Those may be the passwords to your email accounts and financial services. Use a password generator to create stronger passwords.
- Install antivirus & scan your phone
Install antivirus and run a deep scan. Antivirus can also help you protect your system from reinfection.
- Remove suspicious apps
Remove all suspicious apps. They may act as a gateway that allows viruses to get into your smartphone.
- Drop your public WiFi connection
Drop your public WiFi connection and make sure you’ve disabled automatic WiFi (your phone automatically reconnects to saved WiFi hotspots).
- Do a factory reset
If nothing you do helps, do a factory reset. It’s the last option that you want to use, but if your phone doesn’t respond to any input, this will definitely help.
How To Prevent Your Phone From Being Hacked
- Always use antivirus
Make sure your phone has active antivirus and that it’s constantly updated. Run frequent manual virus checks: at least once a week.
- Use a VPN
Use a VPN to encrypt your online traffic and hide your IP. This way hackers won’t be able to match your VPN IP address with your real-life identity as well as read or steal your sensitive data.
- Use only trusted websites
Use only trusted websites that people talk of. Always search for independent reviews about a website you want to visit. You want it to be authoritative and trustworthy. When landed on a website, never click on suspicious links asking you about something. Ensure your browsing is being protected by antivirus.
- Avoid public WiFi
Avoid public WiFi or at least turn a VPN on before connecting to a public hotspot. We would strongly recommend that you don’t use public WiFi at all.
- Do not use your phone as a WiFi hotspot
Do not use your phone for transmitting WiFi in public places. If you do, be certain you’ve taken all appropriate security measures.
- Avoid USB charging stations
Avoid public USB charging stations. Some of them might be fake and installed by a hacker to get access to your smartphone while it’s being charged.
- Never leave your phone unobserved
Never leave your phone unattended and never give it to the people you don’t know. Sometimes hackers will need to have physical access to your phone to infect it.
- Look through your apps
Always check what apps have been installed. If you spot some suspicious apps, immediately delete them.
- Lock your phone
Don’t forget to lock your phone with a password and lock screen.
- Keep your Bluetooth turned off
Always switch your Bluetooth off when you don’t need it to prevent your phone from bluesnarfing.