phone hacking: How to know if your phone is hacked? And what can you do?

phone hacking: How to know if your phone is hacked?  And what can you do?

By Ritesh Chugh, Associate Professor, CQUniversity Australia

With nearly 84 percent of the world’s population now owning a smartphone, and our dependence on them ever increasing, these devices have become an attractive avenue for fraudsters.

Last year, cybersecurity company Kaspersky detected nearly 3.5 million malicious attacks on mobile phone users. The spam messages we receive on our phones via text or email will often contain links to viruses, which are a type of malicious software (malicious software).

There’s a decent chance that at some point you’ve installed malware that infected your phone and was working (without you noticing) in the background.

According to a global report commissioned by the private company Zimperium, more than a fifth of mobile devices have encountered malware. And four out of ten mobile phones worldwide are vulnerable to cyber attacks.

But how do you know if your phone has been targeted? And what can you do?

How does a phone get infected?

Like personal computers, phones can be compromised by malware.

For example, the Hummingbad virus infected ten million Android devices within months of its creation in 2016, putting as many as 85 million devices at risk.

Typically, a phone virus works the same way as a computer virus: a malicious code infects your device, replicates itself, and spreads to other devices by automatically sending messages to others in your contact list or automatically forwarding itself as an email.

A virus can limit your phone’s functionality, send your personal information to hackers, send spam messages to your contacts that link to malware, and even allow the virus operator to “spy” on you by capturing your screen and keyboard, and track your geographical location

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Scamwatch received 16,000 reports of the Flubot virus in just eight weeks in 2021. This virus sends text messages to Android and iPhone users with links to malware. Clicking on the links may cause a malicious app to be downloaded to your phone, giving fraudsters access to your personal information.

Flubot scammers regularly change target countries. According to cybersecurity firm Bitdefender, FluBot operators targeted Australia, Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria and other European countries between December 1, 2021 and January 2 this year.

Is either Apple or Android more secure?
While Apple devices are generally considered more secure than Android, and less prone to virus attacks, iPhone users jailbreak or modify their phone for security vulnerabilities.

Likewise, Android users who install apps outside of the Google Play Store increase their risk of installing malware. It is recommended that all phone users remain vigilant, as both Apple and Android are vulnerable to security risks.

With that said,
phones are generally better protected against viruses than personal computers. This is because software is usually installed through authorized app stores that vet each app (although some malicious apps can occasionally slip through the cracks).

Compared to computers, phones are also more secure as the apps are usually “sandboxed” in their own isolated environment – ​​unable to access or interfere with other apps. This reduces the risk of infection or cross-contamination from malware. However, no device is completely immune.

Look out for the signs

Although it’s not always easy to tell if your phone is infected, if it is, it will show abnormal behavior.

Some signs to watch out for include:

* Poor performance, such as apps taking longer than usual to open or crashing randomly

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* Excessive battery consumption (due to malware constantly working in the background)

* Increased mobile data consumption

* Unexplained billing charges (which may include increased data usage charges due to malware chewing up your data)

* Unusual pop-ups, and

* The device overheats unexpectedly.

Steps to prevent injury

If you suspect that a virus has infected your device, there are some steps you can take. First, to prevent further damage, remove the malware.
Here are some simple troubleshooting steps:

* Use a reliable antivirus app to scan your phone for infections. Some reputable providers that offer paid and free protection services include Avast, AVG, Bitdefender, McAfee or Norton.

* Clear your phone’s storage and cache (in Android devices), or browsing history and website data (in Apple devices).

* Restart your iPhone or restart your Android phone to enter Safe Mode – which is a feature on Android that prevents third-party apps from working while it’s enabled.

* Delete any suspicious or unknown apps from the list of downloaded apps, and if you are an Android user, turn off safe mode when the apps are deleted.

* As a last resort, backup all your data and perform a factory reset on your phone. Resetting a phone to its original settings will eliminate all malware.

Protects the phone from infection
Now that you’ve fixed your phone, it’s important to protect it from future viruses and other security risks. The mobile security apps mentioned above will help with this. But you can also:

* Avoid clicking on unusual pop-ups or links in unusual text messages, social media posts or emails

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* Only install apps from authorized app stores, such as Google Play or Apple’s App Store

* Avoid jailbreaking or modifying your phone

* Check app permissions before installing so you’re aware of what the app gets access to (rather than blindly trusting it)

* Back up your data regularly, and

* Keep your phone software updated to the latest version (which will have the latest security updates).

Continuously monitor your phone for suspicious activity and trust your gut instincts. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

(This article is syndicated by PTI from The Conversation)

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