Your home screen is just a matrix of numbers. Your device loses its charge quickly, or restarts suddenly. Or, you notice outgoing calls that you never dialed. Chances are your smartphone has been hacked. The sad truth is that hackers now have a multitude of ways to get into your phone, without ever touching it.
Given that our smartphones have become our new wallets, containing a treasure trove of personal and financial information, a breach can leave you at serious risk.
The intruder could log in to your accounts as you, spam your contacts with phishing attacks, or rack up expensive long-distance charges. They could also access any passwords saved on your phone, potentially opening the door to sensitive financial accounts. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize when your smartphone has been hacked, especially since some of the signs can be subtle.
Here are some helpful clues:
Is your device operating slower, are web pages and apps harder to load, or does your battery never seem to keep a charge? What about your data plan? Are you exceeding your normal limits? These are all signs that you have malware running in the background, zapping your phone’s resources.
You may have downloaded a bad app, or clicked on a dangerous link in a text message. And malware, like Bitcoin miners, can strain computing power, sometimes causing the phone to heat up, even when you aren’t using it.
Mystery Apps or Data
If you find apps you haven’t downloaded, or calls, texts, and emails that you didn’t send, a hacker is probably in your system. They may be using your device to send premium rate calls or messages, or to spread malware to your contacts.
Pop-ups or Strange Screen Savers
Malware can also be behind spammy pop-ups, changes to your home screen, or bookmarks to suspicious websites. In fact, if you see any configuration changes you didn’t personally make, this is another big clue that your smartphone has been hacked.
What To Do
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, it’s time to take action. Start by deleting any apps or games you didn’t download, erasing risky messages, and running mobile security software, if you have it. Warn your contacts that your phone has been compromised, and to ignore any suspicious links or messages coming from you.
If the problem still doesn’t go away, consider restoring your phone to its original settings. Search online for instructions for your particular phone and operating system to learn how.
Now, let’s look at how to avoid getting hacked in the first place.
Secure Smartphone Tips
1. Use mobile security software—These days your smartphone is just as data rich as your computer. Make sure to protect your critical information, and your privacy, by using comprehensive mobile security software that not only protects you from online threats, but offers anti-theft and privacy protection.
2. Lock your device & don’t store passwords—Make sure that you are using a passcode or facial ID to lock your device when you’re not using it. This way, if you lose your phone it will be more difficult for a stranger to access your information.
Also, remember not to save password or login information for banking apps and other sensitive accounts. You don’t want a hacker to be able to automatically login as you if they do gain access to your device.
3. Avoid using public Wi-Fi—Free Wi-Fi networks, like those offered in hotels and airports, are often unsecured. This makes it easy for a hacker to potentially see the information you are sending over the network. Also, be wary of using public charging stations, unless you choose a “charging only” cable that cannot access your data.
4. Never leave your device unattended in public—While many threats exist online, you still have to be aware of real-world threats, like someone grabbing your device when you’re not looking. Keep your smartphone on you, or within view, while in public.
If you have a “phone visibility” option, turn it off. This setting allows nearby devices to see your phone and exchange data with it.
5. Stay aware—New mobile threats are emerging all the time. Keep up on the latest scams and warning signs, so you know what to look out for.
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