Admit it or not, our mobile phones are one of the most important possessions we have right now. We use it to send messages to our friends, call our loved ones, purchase stuff online, take photos, watch movies, and many more.
Unfortunately, these smart devices can be hacked in several ways, exposing personal data and other sensitive information. So, what should you do if your mobile phone has been hacked?
In this simple guide, we’ll talk about everything about phone hacking, from the signs you need to look out for to the immediate actions you should take and the preventive measures to protect yourself from future hacks.
Table of Contents
Are All Phones Hackable?
It’s no doubt that we’re all connected nowadays, thanks to the wireless internet. While no device is completely invulnerable to hacking, the level of vulnerability varies depending on factors such as the operating system, security measures, and user behavior.
Both Android and iOS devices can be hacked, but each device has its own security features and potential weaknesses.
Android phones, due to their open-source nature, may be more at risk of hacking if users install apps from unofficial sources or neglect to update their operating systems regularly.
On the other hand, iPhones generally have a reputation for stronger security, thanks to Apple’s strict app review process and closed ecosystem. However, even with its security features, iPhones can be compromised through malicious apps or software exploits.
Signs Your Phone Has Been Hacked
It’s not easy to recognize if your phone has been hacked, especially if you haven’t experienced it before.
However, you should know these signs so you can take the necessary steps to fix them and protect the files and information stored on your mobile phone. Here are some common signs to look out for:
- Unusual Battery Drain – If your phone’s battery starts depleting rapidly even when you’re not using it intensively, it might indicate that some malicious software is running in the background.
- Increased Data Usage – If you notice a sudden spike in data usage that you can’t explain by your own actions, it’s possible that unauthorized apps are consuming data without your knowledge.
- Slow Performance – If your once-snappy phone starts feeling sluggish, takes longer to open apps, or freezes frequently, it’s worth investigating for potential malware.
- Strange Pop-ups or Ads – Unexpected pop-ups, ads, or redirects appearing on your screen, especially when you’re not using any specific app, could suggest a compromise.
- Unfamiliar Apps – If you discover apps on your phone that you never downloaded or didn’t remember installing, it’s a strong sign of unauthorized access.
- Unauthorized Access – Friends and contacts receiving messages, emails, or social media posts from your account that you didn’t send can indicate a security breach.
- Changed Settings – If your phone settings seem to change on their own, such as Wi-Fi turning off or passwords being altered, it’s likely a sign of hacking.
While these are the common signs that your phone has been hacked, it’s important to remember that some of these symptoms can also occur due to regular software glitches or other issues.
So even though you might experience these signs, it doesn’t always mean your phone is hacked. Therefore, a combination of these signs might raise a stronger suspicion of hacking.
Immediate Actions to Take if Your Phone Has Been Hacked
Our phones act as our personal vaults containing sensitive data and memories. When they’re compromised, it feels like our whole being is exposed to the public.
That’s why it’s important to act fast when you’re positive that your phone has been hacked. Here are some steps to take:
- Disconnect from the Internet
When you suspect your phone has been hacked, the first step is to disconnect it from Wi-Fi and mobile data immediately if you’re usually connected to your mobile data or Always On Wifi.
This action cuts off the unauthorized access that the hacker might have to your device. By severing their connection, you limit their ability to control or access your phone remotely.
- Change Passwords
As a precaution, make sure to change the passwords for all your important accounts without delay. This includes your email, social media, online banking, and any apps containing sensitive information.
Strong, unique passwords are crucial to ensure that even if the hacker gains access to one account, they won’t be able to easily breach others.
- Update Software
Next, check and ensure your phone’s operating system and apps are up to date. Software updates often contain vital security fixes that address known vulnerabilities. If your phone is running on an old software version, your phone is more likely to get hacked.
Keeping your phone’s software current reduces the risk of future hacking attempts by closing potential entry points that hackers could exploit.
- Scan for Malware
After you’ve made sure that your phone is updated, the next step is to run a comprehensive scan using a reputable anti-malware or antivirus app. Don’t just download any antivirus app you can see.
Sometimes, the cheapest software may even cost you more money as they aren’t secured. This scan will identify and remove any malicious apps or files that might have been installed on your device without your knowledge.
Removing these threats helps restore the safety and security of your phone.
- Remove Suspicious Apps
If you find any apps on your phone that you don’t remember downloading or that seem suspicious, uninstall them ASAP.
Some apps can be used by hackers to gain access to your device or steal your information. So, the longer they are on your phone, the more access you’re giving the hackers.
- Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Activate two-factor authentication for accounts that offer this security feature. 2FA requires an additional verification step beyond your password, such as a unique code sent to your phone.
This adds an extra layer of protection, making it more challenging for hackers to gain entry to your phone or accounts.
- Contact Your Service Provider
Once you’ve done all the steps above, reach out to your mobile service provider or carrier to report the hacking incident.
They can offer assistance, advise you on the best course of action, and possibly implement additional security measures to safeguard your account and device.
- Consider Factory Reset
If all else fails and you’re unable to remove the hack, you might need to perform a factory reset on your device.
This action erases all data and apps, returning your phone to its original state. Make sure to back up your essential data before proceeding, as a factory reset is a last resort when other options have been exhausted.
How to Prevent Your Phone from Being Hacked
As days pass by, hackers or cyber criminals are being more creative and resourceful to steal our information. Fortunately, there are several proactive steps you can take to prevent your phone from being hacked:
- Install Apps from Trusted Sources
Stick to official app stores such as the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Downloading apps from reputable sources minimizes the chances of unintentionally installing malicious software.
- Regular Updates
Always keep your phone’s software system and applications up to date. Software updates often include patches that address vulnerabilities discovered by security experts.
For apps, always update your banking apps, social media accounts, and other apps with confidential or sensitive information.
- Stay Cautious Online
Avoid clicking on suspicious links, downloading files from unknown sources, or sharing personal information on unsecured websites or public Wi-Fi networks.
- Strong Passwords
Create strong and unique passwords for your accounts. A combination of letters, numbers, and symbols makes it harder for hackers to guess or crack your passwords.
You can also use the recommended password which is usually long and complex like the ones from the Apple keychain.
- Review App Permissions
When installing new apps, read carefully and review the permissions they request. If an app asks for more access than it logically needs, consider it a potential red flag. Don’t simply allow everything, as this may compromise your privacy.
- Secure Your Wi-Fi
Your WiFi is a way for hackers to access your information. That’s why it’s important to use a strong and complex password for your Wi-Fi network. Additionally, enable WPA3 encryption for enhanced security, protecting your home network from unauthorized access.
You should also be subscribed to a trusted home broadband internet provider, as your provider has the expertise and resources to implement advanced security measures that can safeguard your home network.
If you’re on a budget, don’t simply trust extremely cheap internet plans that are too good to be true.
- Educate Yourself
Stay informed about the latest hacking techniques and trends. Awareness is a powerful tool for recognizing potential threats and adapting your security practices accordingly.
Whenever you have free time or before you sleep, make sure to browse the latest articles about hacking.
Is There a High Chance of Hacking if I Have an Older Phone?
Phone age doesn’t solely determine its security, but older phones might have more vulnerabilities due to outdated software. Manufacturers often stop providing updates for older models, leaving them exposed to potential exploits.
If you have an older phone, it’s essential to be extra cautious. It doesn’t mean you have to purchase a new phone, but it’s best to stick to the preventive measures we’ve mentioned earlier.
While hacking is a real threat, being aware of the signs and taking immediate action can help protect your personal information.
By staying vigilant, practicing good security habits, and staying informed about the latest threats, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to phone hacking.