How to find out if your smartphone has been hacked

How to find out if your smartphone has been hacked

Smartphones have greatly changed the way people live, communicate with each other and stay entertained. But like everything else, there is a downside. Corrupt people always want what doesn’t belong to them and devise elaborate criminal methods to get what they want and make everyone else miserable. When thieves hack smartphones, they take more than assets—they steal information, money, identity, and—in some cases—reputation, all of which can destabilize and endanger the target’s health and well-being.

Don’t bother using any effort to identify the hacker. Although it is possible to find out who broke into your phone, most of these searches fail. That’s because most phone hackers operate on the dark web and behind proxy servers. They specialize in covering their tracks. Most cyber attacks and phone hacks are done via malware anyway, so despite how personal it may feel, it’s mostly not personal at all.

Hackers use various techniques to gain illegal access to your private assets and information, from SIM swapping, spyware, malware, phishing text and malicious social media links, to outright data theft. Here are some of the ways you can recognize if your smartphone has been targeted by hackers, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens.

Signs that your smartphone has been hacked

Excessive pop-up ads

Beware of X-rated or screaming, flashing ads. Even if you don’t use a pop-up blocker, it’s easy to tell the difference between legitimate content and the number of pop-up ads and a potential criminal problem. Most pop-ups are generated by the website you are visiting or an advertiser associated with that website. An excessive number of random ads, especially those outside your area of ​​interest and especially sexually oriented or pornographic, signals trouble.

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Texts or calls you didn’t send or call

Close-up of a man iMessaging on an iPhone.
Neil Godwin/Future/Getty Images

Monitor your incoming and outgoing text messages and calls. If you see calls or messages you don’t remember, or bookmarks you didn’t create, someone else can call them for you via a hacked handset.

Excessive data usage

Month by month, you know roughly how much data you’re using, so if that level starts to rise for no apparent reason or extra usage, it could be a sign that you’re getting unwanted outside help.

Weird apps

Motorola Edge App Drawer
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both iOS and Android phones come with a variety of apps that vendors believe users need and want. We all know these apps – some are easy to get rid of, some are integrated into the function of the device, and others are disposable. The problem occurs with third-party apps that you don’t recognize, remember to download, or even use. Mysterious apps are a sign that your phone has been hacked.

Battery drain

If your smartphone battery drains quickly, even if you don’t use your phone more than usual, this may indicate the presence of hacker-controlled malware or spyware apps on your device. While a smartphone’s battery life decreases over time, a phone infected with malware or spyware shows more battery consumption than what is considered normal. Malicious apps exploit mobile resources such as data and battery to run in the background, monitor your device or transfer data to remote servers.

Poor performance

Razer Phone Game Booster app.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

As smartphones age, batteries drain faster, and updated apps can use more resources as older phones struggle to keep up. This is to be expected. But if your phone freezes, crashes apps, turns on and off at will, and keeps running apps even after you close them, that means trouble.

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Runs hot

If your handset suddenly feels unusually warm or warm to the touch, it could be the result of malware from data mining apps using resources in the background – or even someone remotely controlling your device.

Password problems

iOS password sharing.
Jackie Dove/Digital Trends

If your passwords stop working, or settings have been enabled or disabled without your input, it could mean an unwanted third party is controlling your phone.

The phone will not turn off

If you can’t turn off your phone completely or at all, it may be because it has been hacked to be available for criminals to steal your information.

Camera invasion

The camera interface of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE.

Yes, your camera can be hacked. For example, you may notice photos and videos in your camera roll or gallery that you don’t remember taking.

How to keep your smartphone safe from hackers

While there is always a risk of criminal smartphone invasion, here are some simple tips to keep your smartphone safe.

  • Install a mobile security app to scan and eliminate malware and spyware.
  • Always use two-factor authentication when available.
  • Keep your mobile phone software up to date, as updates generally increase security.
  • Lock your SIM card.
  • Store sensitive information such as credit card numbers only in a secure app.
  • Uninstall apps you no longer use.
  • Turn off the mobile website and Bluetooth when you are in public.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi and charging ports, or use a USB data block if necessary.
  • Always lock your phone with a password.
  • Use VPNs to secure your browsing and keep it private.
  • Only download apps and attachments from trusted sources like Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
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What to do if your smartphone gets hacked

Despite all precautions, it is still possible for certain hackers to invade your smartphone. If your smartphone has been hacked, here are some tips on how to mitigate the damage.

  • Change all passwords immediately and use a password manager to generate some strong new passwords.
  • Restore your smartphone to factory settings for iOS and Android, if necessary.
  • Inform all contacts to ignore messages or links from you until the issue is resolved – this protects friends, family and colleagues if someone has hacked your phone and is sending out fake messages.
  • Secure your login process with two-factor authentication, if you haven’t already.
  • Uninstall any suspicious apps – apps you don’t remember downloading and apps you don’t use.
  • Check credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized activity. If you find anything wrong, contact the company immediately to report it. You may want to close your current accounts and open new ones.
  • Clear your browser’s history, cache and cookies and enable private browsing.

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