Your phone is your digital identity. In today’s world, if a hacker gets access to your phone then they have full control over you. Your family, friends, photos, bank details. Everything. A remote hacker can trace your physical location using your phone and snoop in all of your conversations.
You can never go too paranoid when it comes to placing suspicions on your devices. You can always consult a technician to have your device examined. Still, it is better to do certain checks by yourself to know whether somebody hacked your phone. If yes, you would want to know as soon as possible and take precautions even quicker.
How to Know if Your Phone Is Hacked (Signs)
Here are a few signs someone bugged your phone. Keep in mind that these signs are common across all vendors(Android or iPhone). As you follow along with the steps, make sure you find the proper settings according to your phone type.
You See Apps You Don’t Recognize
In your list of apps, see if there’s a new application that’s been installed recently. If you don’t recognize it, it is possible an attacker installed a malicious application on your phone. They are using this fake application to spy on your phone’s activities.
You See Unusually High Network Usage
Examining network usage in your devices is an underrated trick in many cases. If somebody compromised your phone, they may be accessing your phone via the internet. Or to say the very least an application is sending your data over the network.
In both of these cases, your network consumption has increased than usual. If you use phone data, then it is a good idea to check out your data usage too.
Some phone apps show breakdown stats of data usage thus helping you spot harmful apps.
Your Phone Performance Has Been Reduced
Your phone may have started to slow down. Sometimes a quick reboot helps. But if you notice a consistent lag in performance, it is likely your phone is already infected. Attackers may be trying to scan through your phone by running codes in the background.
Or it could be the cause of a virus that’s eating up the phone’s processing power. Doing a quick CPU and RAM usage check can help determine what apps are causing the problem. You could enable developer options and check phone performance.
You Keep Getting Pop Up Ads or Notifications
If a harmful application is in your phone, it is going to throw pop-up notifications or ads at you. These ads prevent you from using your phone. Also, these ads intend to make you want to click on them intentionally or otherwise.
If you do so, your phone may get infected with a malware program.
Your Apps Keep Crashing
Another sign of a hacked phone is intermittent app failures. To avoid detection, the program prevents you from using your regular applications. They deploy rogue programs that mess up your device’s operating system. They generally target antivirus and spyware scanner apps.
You will notice other apps also crashing when you attempt to open them.
Messages and Calls You Didn’t Make
You may notice unknown numbers receiving messages from you in your inbox. This could be a text or a messaging app. And if you pull up call logs, there may also be examples of phone calls that you didn’t make.
If you notice any of these phone activities, an attacker may be secretly unlocking your phone. They are the ones to make calls and send messages to people.
Your Contacts Get Spam Messages From You
Once an attacker gets a hold of your phone, they will try to spread the same infection to your friends and family. Designing crafty messages, they may send emails or messages disguised as you.
If anyone clicks on them, the attacker gets access to their devices too.
Abnormal Draining of Phone Battery
A compromised phone tries to send personal data through malicious programs. The programs generally hide and operate in the background and do not show anything to the user. Doing all this utilizes the device memory and thus ends up draining the battery.
Batteries usually reach their end of life in 2-3 years so it could be a battery issue and nothing else. Either way, it’s a good idea to get your batteries checked or replaced soon.
If the battery life doesn’t improve after this then you can conclude somebody did hack your phone.
Your Phone Camera Heats Up
Phone cameras are intricate pieces of equipment inside your phone. It is natural for the camera hardware to heat up after using it. Depending on your device, it should cool down pretty fast too.
But, if you find your camera heats up all the time, then that would be unusual. A possible explanation is that a hacker has access to your phone’s camera. They use that to take pictures and record videos whenever they desire.
This sounds pretty scary but can be true. You may be being monitored from your own phone.
Phone Keeps Turning on
Go to Settings and search for Ambient Display. Turn this setting off. Again, search for pick up your phone to show and turn this setting off too.
If your phone continues to turn on again, it’s likely somebody is remotely performing activities on your phone.
Files Wiped Out
After gaining access to your phone, a hacker may try to delete all your files. Or, they may encrypt them using ransomware and demand that you pay money.
In any case, if your files have gone missing in your phone, a hacker may have erased them all forever.
Google Assistant Keeps Popping Up Randomly
Go to Settings and search for Google Assistant. Go to General and turn off Google Assistant. This setting should prevent the google assistant from popping up randomly on your phone.
If your phone still does that, your phone may be compromised.
Cannot Access a Locked Phone
If you don’t set up your device security options, an attacker can gain access to your phone. Device security can be pin codes, fingerprints, face ID, and so on. And if they are not set up properly, hackers change your pin codes and wipe all other security options.
Thus this makes it impossible for you to unlock your phone by yourself.
Odd Activities on Social Accounts
Once a hacker gets into your phone, he/she may access your social accounts and upload obnoxious posts or comments. Your posts may get deleted out of nowhere.
One may no longer be able to access and result in identity theft.
No Calls or Messages
An attacker may block all the services on your SIM card. You may not receive any texts or calls from your friends and family members.
This means that hackers might have cloned your SIM card from the service provider.
How Can My Phone Be Hacked?(Ways)
A phone can be hacked in several ways. An attacker tries to install malicious code on your phone. This code gives them remote administrator access allowing them full control. Some of the notorious methods are :
If you regularly install your apps from non-official sources, it’s likely one of them could be compromising your phone.
Official apps are well-tested and properly vetted to make sure they don’t exploit any device vulnerabilities unlike apps from untrusted sources.
File(s) From a Spam Email
You may have clicked on a link in a spam or suspicious email that triggered the download of a malicious program in your phone.
Unsafe Links From Websites
You may have accidentally clicked the wrong link on a website. Websites these days are full of insecure ads and malware. A hacker can take advantage of that and place their remote access programs when clicked.
Suspicious Links From Messages
If one of your friend’s phones was compromised, the attacker could easily send messages to you disguised as them. These messages contain links that put your phone at the same risk as theirs when opened.
Physical Access or Theft
If your phone is left unattended, a hacker could physically take your phone away from you. They could then attempt to break your phone’s security and install the code themselves.
Public networks are always susceptible to hacks. Connecting your phone to a unsecured public Wi-Fi network can allow the attacker to snoop in your phone’s network traffic.
Phishing in general is a fraudulent attempt used by scammers. The goal is to trick you into sharing information or money. Scammers pose as a support person from your phone’s company. Then they try to convince you of their legitimacy via phone call or email. They even come up with fake stories such as :
- Winning The Lottery
- High Phone Bills
- Phone Contract Expiry
- Phone Issue Detected
- Unauthorized Phone Payments Detected
- New Phone Package or Any Such Fake Sales Pitch
Depending on the type of hacker, they can do a lot of damage through phishing. They can get personal information that they can leverage on you. They can install ransomware and lock your phone up, demanding you pay them money.
They can even force you into making unauthorized payments via your phone if you’re not careful.
Sim Card Hacks
Attackers target SIM cards by sending spyware to your phone’s SMS message. If you open this message, the attackers get access to your calls and messages. They can even track your location using your SIM card.
SIM swapping is more of an attack on your phone company than you. Hackers call your phone company pretending to be you. They convince the tech support to send a replacement SIM to their address.
If successful, they will have your duplicate sim card. They will then have full access to your calls. They will have full access to all the two-factor authentication requests of your various accounts.
Not to mention your own SIM card gets deactivated making it useless on your phone.
Signaling System 7(SS7) makes it possible to route phone calls between cell towers and networks. But, It is an old technology that never got upgraded with time since it was developed.
In the wrong hands, anyone with SS7 access can eavesdrop on your phone calls and text messages all over the world. 4G and 5G technology encrypt traffic between your phone and towers, but once it gets there it gets converted to a wireline which is left open to attackers.
Thus, attackers can place 24/7 surveillance on you and your phone.
The attacker sends a lot of requests to your Bluetooth-enabled phone. Bluetooth service can handle only a finite number of connections. So it eventually crashes and brings all connections down. Your phone’s Bluetooth stops working.
You are no longer able to connect to your wearables and AirPods.
Hackers pose their device as a trusted device that your phone constantly connects to. Your phone is set up to connect to these devices automatically so it won’t detect a new device. Once they establish a connection, they send malware to your phone using Bluetooth.
If you open this file, they will gain full access.
The attacker uses Bluetooth technology to send unsolicited messages to your phone. They connect to your phone’s Bluetooth and send pictures, links, texts, etc. to your phone.
The attacker uses similar tactics as others. They gain your phone’s device information, model, firmware, etc. by using this attack. After collecting info, they can launch a device-specific code to infect your phone.
The attacker connects to your phone’s Bluetooth and obtains connection information. Then they exploit vulnerabilities in your phone’s object exchange (OBEX) protocol.
Thus they can steal sensitive files in your phone without your knowledge.
Your phone’s NFC feature is widely used for two things. Contactless payments and file sharing. If NFC is on, an attacker can start an unauthorized connection to your phone. Thus they can install malicious programs.
Usually, your phone displays a confirmation when attempting to install from unknown sources. But a software update’s vulnerability whitelisted certain services like NFC.
Hackers misuse this to perform a silent install of the malicious app.
What Do I Do if My Phone Is Hacked?
The main goal after finding a compromised phone is to cut the risks of further damage. Take the following steps immediately.
- Wipe all your personal data from the phone. Restore phone to factory defaults.
- Switch off your phone.
- Remove your SIM card from the tray.
- If removable, remove the battery too.
- Report your local authorities immediately and inform them of the situation.
- Use a different device to log out of all the accounts you used on your previous phone.
- Lastly, change passwords of all regular apps and services that you use.
How to Avoid Being Hacked?
There are some common practices that security-conscious users can follow for phone protection. A few of them are:
- Always download and use apps from trusted sources, e.g. Play Store or App store only.
- Never click on any links in a spam email.
- Encrypt your files.
- Never open suspicious links sent to you by friends.
- Use phone locks at all times. Use biometrics, pin codes, etc.
- Use 2FA(Two Factor Authentication).
- Install Antivirus programs and perform periodic scans.
- Never use unsecured public Wi-Fis.
- Keep bluetooth and NFC features turned off as much as possible.
- Watch out for phishing attempts through phone calls, SMS and emails.
Is there a shortcode to check if my phone is hacked?
Sadly, there is no particular shortcode that can tell you if a phone is hacked straightaway. However, you can still try the following codes that can give you one information or the other.
Is my phone safe when I turn it off?
Not quite. Most malicious services can be stopped by shutting your phone down. But, some services such as sim activities may still be compromised even when turned off. It is better to remove the SIM card and batteries too.
Is there an app to see if my phone is hacked?
Can my phone be hacked with a phone call?
The short answer to this would be no. With the current technology, it is not possible to hack your phone by calling you. That being said, experts can track the location of your phone from a phone call.
Call tracing is frequently used by legal authorities to catch and arrest criminals. By tracing a phone call for a certain duration, they can triangulate the location of the receiver.