Here’s how to spot them and protect your smartphones
Rabiul Islam is an experienced specialist in cyber security. He is also the founder, managing director and managing director of TechForing Ltd.
Android and iOS devices dominate the mobile phone market these days. This also makes them the biggest target for cybercriminals, as someone’s phone contains far more personal data than any other electronic device.
Falling victim to a phone hack is a nightmare, and it can be even more damaging when it’s a business phone. The worst case scenario of phone hacking is the threat actor gaining access to online accounts, such as a person’s business network, social media, email, shopping accounts or – even worse – financial information.
In this article, I will cover Android and iOS hacks, how to detect them, how to recover from them, and how to prevent them from happening in the future.
Types of Smartphone Hacks
Cybercriminals can gain access to a smartphone in many ways. Some of the methods are briefly described here:
- Malware: Cybercriminals sometimes upload fake apps on the play store or modified apps on the internet that users may have a genuine interest in, such as a VPN app or free versions of paid apps. These fake apps are usually rigged with malware that can give your phone access to a hacker. Other techniques hackers use to spread malware include phishing emails, unsecured Wi-Fi and voicemail phishing.
- Smishing: SMS Phishing or SMishing is a trick hackers use to get people to download software embedded in malware. Hackers send text messages with links containing lucrative offers, tempting them to click on them and infecting their devices.
- Social engineering: This is one of the easiest ways for a hacker to gain access to someone’s phone. Android and iOS operating systems have many built-in features that prevent hackers from gaining access to a device. However, some hackers manage to trick people into lowering security measures to run their apps, which inadvertently compromises the device’s security.
- Pretext: Sometimes attackers don’t even try to attack devices directly, but gain access through their service providers.
- Man-in-the-Middle Wi-Fi Attacks: Many people simply fall victim to man-in-the-middle Wi-Fi attacks. Public Wi-Fi networks are usually inadequately secured. Cybercriminals take advantage of it, cutting off the connection and infiltrating people’s phones.
Detects hacks on your Android and IOS devices
If your phone gets hacked, it will show some symptoms. You can use these symptoms to detect if a smartphone has been hacked:
- Poor battery performance: If you notice that your battery is inexplicably draining faster than usual, your phone may be experiencing a hack.
- Random App Installs: If you discover an app that you haven’t installed on your smartphone yourself, you might be experiencing a hack attack. Malicious websites and apps can sometimes install a program on your phone and send data to third parties.
- Inexplicably high data usage: Most people don’t pay attention to their daily data usage, but if you notice very high usage, your smartphone may be under a hack attack.
- Weird pop-up ads: Anyone who has been on the internet for a while has experienced pop-up ads. However, if your phone continues to display random or inappropriate pop-up ads, it may be under attack.
- Apps or phones randomly crash: Sometimes phones start behaving strangely, such as randomly opening apps, crashing the app for no reason, or the phone turning off completely. These are clear signs that a phone is being hacked.
Restoring your smartphone
If you suspect that your Android or iOS device has been hacked, there are a few ways to recover your smartphone and data:
- Get rid of unknown apps: You can start by booting your phone in safe mode and get rid of all the unknown apps on your phone as there is a high possibility that these apps contain malware, which makes your phone behave unnaturally. Entering safe mode prevents third-party apps from running in the background, making it easier to remove them.
- Scan your phone with a mobile antivirus program: A mobile antivirus program will scan your phone for malicious files and remove them permanently.
- Unroot / Unjailbreak your smartphone: If your smartphone is rooted (Android devices) or jailbroken (iOS devices), hackers can easily bypass your phone’s security measures. So if your phone is rooted/jailbroken, you should unroot it immediately.
- Contact your operator: If you’ve noticed suspicious phone calls, texts, or unexplained bills from your mobile carrier, you may be experiencing a SIM hack. Contact your operator and inform them.
- Get in touch with digital forensics experts: If you are not sure whether you want to recover your smartphone after being hacked, you can contact a digital forensics expert.
How to prevent smartphone hacking
Smartphones have some built-in security features that provide a certain level of security. However, they are not nearly enough. Taking a few important steps to protect your smartphone can go a long way. Here are some tips to protect your smartphone from hacks:
- Be careful about downloading apps: Download only from official sources like Google Play or App Store. Always double check before downloading an app.
- Understanding App Permissions: Always check what kind of permissions you give to an app. There’s no reason a calculator app should have access to your camera or contacts. Pay attention to these things.
- Do not click on random links: Hackers try to infect devices via strange links, emails or email attachments. Be careful opening any of these without being 100% sure. If you ever receive an email with an unexpected attachment, check that the email was sent from the right person.
- Do not share personal information: Be careful about sharing personal information online or over the phone.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi: Using public Wi-Fi is often the number one cause of smartphone hacks due to the lack of security features. If you must use public Wi-Fi, especially on a work phone, be sure to use a VPN to secure your connection.
- Keep your apps up to date: Even trusted apps can have vulnerabilities, but app updates often patch them. Always update your apps to protect your smartphone from hacks.
Getting your smartphone hacked can lead to dire consequences. However, like all online security practices, simple vigilance and common sense can help you prevent hacks on Android and iOS devices.
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