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Making calls, sending emails, buying tickets, taking photos, creating reminders, paying bills, and checking our bank balances—these are just a few of the activities that we do on our phones. This is why keeping our devices secure is of vital importance.
What are the chances of a cybercriminal accessing your phone? How can you find out if your phone has been hacked? Here are the signs to look for if you think that your iPhone or Android device may have been hacked and what actions to take in such a situation.
Can My iPhone or Android Phone Be Hacked?
Unfortunately, anyone can be vulnerable to phone hacking. It doesn't matter whether you use an Android or iPhone. This can happen to any smartphone.
The information located on your device can be highly attractive to both cybercriminals and even acquaintances. The list of reasons for someone to hack your smartphone is endless and includes getting access to your photos and private data, reading your text messages, stealing money, and so on.
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If ask yourself “my phone has been hacked, what do I do, or who could have done it?”, think about who may be interested in your data.
How to Tell if Your Phone Has Been Hacked
Have a gut feeling that your phone has been hacked? It could've happened in seconds. You may have downloaded an app with malware installed, clicked on a malicious link, or used unsecured public Wi-Fi.
Here are five big signs to be on the lookout for.
1. Increased Data Usage
There can be different reasons for this, such as watching high-quality videos on Netflix, uploading high-quality pics, automatically updating apps, or faster network speeds.
If nothing else has changed, but your data usage has still skyrocketed, then there is a possibility that your phone has been hacked.
To check how much data was used by your iPhone, head to Settings > Mobile Data.
If you have an Android, open Settings and go to Connections > Data usage > Mobile data usage.
Check whether there are any unusual data usage spikes. If you notice some unknown app using up most of your allowance, you might have found the problem.
In this case, you should uninstall that application. (You'll need to take further measures, too, in case the damage is already done, but we'll come back to that later).
2. Bizarre Behavior
Smartphones often begin to operate unusually when infected with a virus. If you are a frequent user, it is easier to spot anything out of the ordinary. A lot of people ignore those signs.
For example, your phone may automatically open apps when you're not even doing anything, operate extremely slowly, or restart for no reason. If you notice anything like this, there's a chance that you have malware running in the background.
3. Poor Performance
Poor phone performance may be due to using an outdated OS, an older phone model, or the fact that you burdened its performance by running unnecessary apps and files.
However, if none of that is true and your phone is taking forever to load apps, overheats, or the battery depletes itself at an excessive rate, it may be a sign that your smartphone has been compromised.
Check out the battery usage menu on your device to see if you've got an unusually-named app killing your battery. On an Android, you can refer to Settings > Battery and device care > Battery > View details.
If you're using an iPhone, you'll find this info under Settings > Battery.
4. Unauthorized Credit Card Purchases
Keep a close eye on your credit or debit card statements. If you spot weird purchases that you didn't make, then there's definitely something going on. Of course, your smartphone might not be to blame. It may very well be another form of credit card fraud.
First, confirm whether someone in the family with access to your cards made a purchase. You might have pending subscriptions whose payments might automatically be deducted from your card. If not, we have a problem.
To prevent this from happening, always look carefully through a site before making a purchase and entering your credit card details, including vetting its SSL certificate by checking whether it directs to a URL beginning in "HTTPS".
If the site you're visiting seems suspicious with lots of weird pop-ups and ads, avoid revealing any personal or financial information while using it.
5. Suspicious Text Messages
Is your phone sending weird messages to random numbers? This is a clear sign that you've been hacked. Unauthorized activity of any kind in this area will be a major red flag.
Look for any dubious apps that have access to your messages. If you notice this type of behavior, you should revoke access immediately and delete it. To find out which app is causing this issue on your iPhone, head to Settings > Privacy.
On an Android device, open Settings app and navigate to Privacy > Permission manager.
What to Do if You Think Your Phone Has Been Hacked
You've determined that there's malware lurking on your smartphone. Now you need to know how to remove a hacker from your iPhone or Android device. Here's what to do if you think your phone has been hacked.
The first thing to do is to look for any apps that you don't remember downloading. If you're using an iPhone, navigate to Settings and scroll down to see all the apps on your device. Do this until you hit the very bottom, in case an app is hiding within another folder.
If your phone is an Android, head to Settings > Apps > App Manager. Carefully look through the list of apps on your device. If you find a suspicious app, tap it and select Uninstall.
You can also install antivirus software on your device. There are plenty of great choices on Google Play for Android users, such as Sophos Intercept X. This app is completely free to use and offers many useful features, such as scanning apps for malware, web filtering, a link checker, Wi-Fi security, and more.
Apple offers strong protection, but we always advise additional security anyway. However, you will face a higher risk of getting hacked if your device is jailbroken.
After removing any suspicious apps, use your security suite to scan your entire device for any remaining malicious software.
There's another method that you can try: a full-on factory reset. Before moving forward with this, however, know that it will wipe everything from your phone, including your contacts, photos, apps, and other files.
With the right backup plans, you can recover some of the data from your device, but since the phone’s privacy has been compromised, the best practice is to let it go.
If you choose to restore, make sure it's from before the malicious app was added. Otherwise, you're downloading that same malware again. You may still lose data, depending on your last backup.
For this reason, we recommend backing your phone up as frequently as you feel comfortable doing.
To factory reset your Android phone, you should do the following:
- Hook the device to the charger.
- Open the Settings menu and head to General management > Reset.
- Tap Factory data reset and then press Reset again.
If you are using an iPhone:
- Connect your device to the charger.
- Launch the Settings app and tap on General.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the menu and tap Transfer or Reset iPhone.
- Select Erase All Content and Settings.
- If you have an iCloud Backup, the phone will ask you whether you want to update the backup or erase it right away. You'll need to decide whether it's worth potentially deleting precious photos and messages.
What to Do When Your Phone Is Hacked
No matter whether you're using an Android or iPhone, you should always think twice before downloading apps outside the authorized app stores. They may contain dangerous malware.
This isn't the only way to get hacked. You can even accidentally download malicious software when using public Wi-Fi. Monitor your phone's activity frequently, and you’ll know what to do when your phone is hacked.