In today’s digital world, we rely on our mobile devices to navigate much of our daily lives. Beyond making calls and sending text messages, we use our phones for online shopping, banking, work, personal reminders, photos, videos, and so much more.
While this technology offers great possibilities and convenience, it also can put your personal data at risk. Phones are lucrative targets of attacks because they hold so much valuable information stored in a single place, such as private or financial information. Luckily, there are key signs you can look out for — and steps you can take — to protect your device.
The basics of phone hacking
Phone hacking is when someone gains unauthorized access to your device or its communications. For example, some will hack into phones to listen in on calls. Others may use malware to read text messages or steal payment details and sensitive information.
While phone hacking doesn’t just happen to smartphones, these devices are our most trusted devices, which means they have access to some of our most valuable information and accounts. But if you know how to spot a phone hack, you could help protect your smartphone and other devices, such as tablets.
Phone hacking today
In 2022, there are countless threats to your mobile device and the data it holds. Because smartphones are so common, hackers have evolved the way they try to access information.
Here are a few of the common ways hackers will try to hack into your smartphone:
- Text Messages: It’s common for malware and viruses to be distributed via text message. Malware is short for “malicious software” and is something hackers use to infect devices and find information on them. This malicious software is usually sent to you as a link over a text message. These texts usually include extremely convincing information, followed by a link that encourages you to click on it. For example, it might look like a message from your bank saying “there has been an update to your account. Click here to view.” If you do click, the link might direct you to a webpage encouraging you to download software that’s really a form of malware.
- Device and app permissions: When you download an application, it may ask you to grant permissions to certain data. Giving an app permission to access sensitive information – for instance, your location, photos, and microphone – could put your data at risk if the app is malicious, or if the app shares your information with third party services that are unsafe.
- Social media scams: Phishing attacks can be distributed through social media channels. Sometimes, social media messages, ads, or posts will contain an unsafe link. You may receive a message from an unknown account that contains a link and entices you to click on it. Be careful to only add friends on your social media that you know, and never click on a link sent by a stranger.
- Emails: Email scams are a common way that hackers try to gain access from your personal information. A phishing email may include a fake message about your finances, or a fake receipt for a product you never paid for. Phishing emails can be sophisticated and are designed to get you to click on a link or download malware so you can remove charges or learn more about the notice. By downloading the malware, you may give hackers access to sensitive information on your smartphone.
How to know if your phone is hacked
Is my phone hacked? Has your phone been acting strangely? Maybe you’ve noticed mysterious apps, or your battery is draining more quickly than usual. While these activities don’t always mean your phone is at risk, they could be important signs that your device is compromised and your data at risk.
If you’re unsure whether your phone has been hacked, there are some key signs to look out for:
- It’s slower than usual: It’s normal for smartphones to slow down over time, but this shouldn’t happen overnight. If you notice your phone is significantly slower than usual, it could mean there’s malware or a virus on your phone. When malicious programs are downloaded to your phone, they can steal storage space and processing power, which slows everything else down.
- Pop-up ads are showing up: It’s common for mobile viruses to hide behind annoying pop-up ads. While pop-up ads are sometimes normal when browsing online, malicious ads might show up even when you’re visiting a trusted site or on apps where they don’t normally appear. If you notice more pop-up ads than usual, this could be a sure sign of a virus running in the background.
- Your battery is draining faster: If your battery suddenly starts to drain faster than usual, that might be a sign of a hack. Batteries will sometimes start to drain after a major update or if your phone is old, but that shouldn’t happen overnight. Malware and spyware programs run in the background while you aren’t actively using your phone, which can quickly decrease your battery life. If you’re an iPhone or Android user, you can check your battery usage in your settings to see how it’s broken up. This can let you know if there’s unknown programs running in the background.
- Unusual activity on accounts linked to phone: If you receive an alert about suspicious activity on your smartphone, it could be a sign of a hacked phone. Unusual activity can include hackers using your social media accounts to send strange messages or making posts that contain malicious links.
- You notice duplicate apps: Hackers will sometimes use duplicate, phony apps to get smartphone users to open a link or download malware. If you notice you have more than one of the same app on your phone screen, this could be a sure sign of a hacker. Phony apps can look almost identical to the real thing, so be cautious and don’t open any duplicate apps you notice.
There are other signs of a hacked phone, such as reduced screenshot quality, unusually high data usage, and apps crashing randomly. If you notice any of these signs, you can take immediate steps to protect your device by downloading a security tool that can scan your device for risks and remediate threats.
How do phones get hacked?
As technology advances, the methods hackers use to break into phones also becomes more sophisticated. As a smartphone user, understanding some of these methods can help you stay protected against possible threats. Here are some ways that phones get hacked:
- False advertisements: One of the classic ways hackers try to gain access to phones is by presenting users with fake ads encouraging them to click on a link. It is common for these advertisements to include an alert or warning message meant to scare the phone user and get them to act quickly. If a mobile user clicks on a link in a false advertisement, they may be prompted to download malware that infects their device and steals sensitive information.
- Malware: Malware is another common method for phone hackers because it completely compromises the operating system. Oftentimes, hackers will create “free apps” that offer services like virus protection or video editing that are not found in the Apple App Store or the Google Play store. While the services are free, these suspicious apps will quietly infect your device in the background and get access to your passwords, text messages, and other data. Malware can be disguised as different apps, so be careful before downloading anything to your device.
- Public Wi-Fi: While public Wi-Fi is really convenient when you’re out at restaurants, events, and other public spaces, it can be a risk for phone users. Hackers can access your phone through those public connections and access data without actually taking control of your phone. This is why some mobile users use a virtual private network (VPN) instead, which is a personal network that protects you from the unsecured networking of the Wi-Fi you’re connected to.
- Bluetooth: Like the public Wi-Fi method, hackers can use a Bluetooth connection to steal phone access without ever breaching the actual phone. If your Bluetooth connection is unregulated, hackers simply have to be physically close to you to gain access to your phone without needing you to click a button or install an app.
What to do if your phone is hacked? Here are some prevention tips
If your phone is hacked, remember that there are ways you can protect yourself. As a first step, you can uninstall suspicious apps, update your passwords and set two-factor authentication to your online accounts. You can also connect with mobile device security experts who can help you remove malware and install security software to prevent the problem from happening again.
Even better, you can take steps to prevent hackers from ever entering your mobile device. Here are some prevention tips for avoiding phone hackers:
- Use anti-malware software: Installing anti-malware software is a great way to add an extra layer of defense against attackers and alert you when malware is installed on your phone.
- Manage Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: As mentioned, hackers can gain access to cellphones through public Wi-Fi and unsecure Bluetooth. If you don’t monitor these two possible entry points, you may be leaving your device vulnerable to attacks. As a general rule, turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth access when they aren’t in use. For many smartphones, you can do this quickly by using the drop-down menu.
- Update your phone frequently: Keeping your phone and apps updated helps keep your device safe. Phone and app updates often patch up weak points that hackers use to hack into mobile devices.
- Password manager: Keeping track of multiple unique passwords can be challenging, so many mobile phone users stick to the same one. However, having a single password for all your apps and functions makes it easier for hackers to steal data. Using a secure password manager is a great way to use many different passwords without losing track of them. Often, security software will include a password manager service that stores your passwords for you.
In addition to these methods, always remember to be careful about clicking on strange links or installing any app you don’t recognize. It is also essential to protect your physical device. While many hackers work behind the scenes, there is also the risk of someone stealing your phone and accessing data that way.
If you protect your personal information and device, you can significantly decrease the risk of losing sensitive information so you can safely use and enjoy your phone.
If you are looking for the best protection for your mobile device and personal data, Lookout can help. Our product is designed to help you protect your devices and identity, so you never have to worry about who has access to your phone or your personal information. With several protection plan options to choose from, Lookout gives you the tools you need to protect yourself and your devices.
In addition to phone security, we have additional services to protect your identity that include:
- Data breach alerts
- financial monitoring
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- $1 Million identity protection
Ready to get started or learn more about our security services? Contact us today.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Can you check to see if your phone has been hacked?
If you think your phone has been hacked, you can first run security software to see if it comes up with any suspicious activity. Then, you should check for random or malicious apps, text messages, and phone calls. You should also check your bank accounts to see if any unauthorized purchases have been made.
Can you un-hack your phone?
To un-hack your phone, you may need to completely factory reset your device, which will delete all your data (such as contacts and text messages), so this shouldn’t be treated lightly. If you are sure how to remove a hacker, contact a mobile security service provider to get professional help.
What is the first thing you do when you get hacked?
When you get hacked, change your passwords on all sensitive accounts. This will help prevent the hacker from accessing additional personal information. Then, you should contact your phone service provider or a mobile device security team for assistance.