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How to Know if Your Phone Is Hacked

Lukas Grigas
Cybersecurity Content Writer

Our phones are an inseparable part of our day-to-day lives. We rely on our mobile device for more than mere communication. Sensitive data stored on our phones is worth a lot to bad actors. These days, as we continue to see a steep increase in cybercriminal activity, it is worth paying extra attention to our phone security.

Do you know what the signs of a hacked phone are? Or how your phone can be hacked? What should you do if your phone is compromised, and how can you ensure the security of your mobile device? Let’s jump in and get the answers to all these questions.

Signs your phone is hacked

If bad actors are successful in their attempt to hack your phone, you have ways to detect the intrusion. Some signs are easy to spot, such as sluggish performance, invasive pop-ups, or the crashing of apps. Others might require closer inspection. Here are some of the tell-tale signs that your mobile device has been compromised.

  • Sluggish performance

    If you’ve noticed that your mobile device has slowed down, it could be an indication that a malicious piece of software has been using up all that energy.

  • Quick battery discharge

    Sometimes a battery dies out, but other times, malware can take its toll. If you notice that your battery all of a sudden runs out in a matter of hours or minutes, your phone might be the victim of a hack.

  • Phone heating up

    Malicious software can affect our phone in various ways. Malware is known for putting an unusually high strain on a phone’s CPU, which can result in the device heating up.

  • High data usage

    Most modern-day malicious software requires an active internet connection to function in the intended way. Communicating with a remote server can quickly increase your data usage.

  • Unfamiliar applications on your phone

    Most smartphones come with a variety of pre-installed applications. However, if you notice unfamiliar apps and you’re sure you didn’t download them, that could be a clear sign of malware at work.

  • Suspicious pop-ups

    Although not all pop-ups are an indication of malicious activity on your phone, the unfamiliar and invasive ones are often triggered by a malicious third-party app that shouldn't be on your mobile device.

  • Suspicious outgoing texts and calls

    If you notice a variety of suspicious outgoing texts and calls that you did not initiate, that is another sign that your phone might be hijacked by bad actors.

How to tell if your phone is hacked

How can your phone be hacked?

Bad actors can find an unauthorized way into your device in a variety of ways. However, a successful attack on your phone usually requires an action on your part. Here are a few ways that your mobile device can be hacked.

Phishing

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack where bad actors send out fake email messages that masquerade as coming from legitimate sources to trick unsuspecting users into either installing malicious software or giving out their personal information.

Using public WiFi

Sure, public WiFi is amazing. It can be a lifesaver in certain instances. However, hackers love public WiFi hotspots as well. Why? Well, most such hotspots lack the necessary security measures, which is a perfect situation for a bad actor to intercept an unsecure connection and gain access to your device.

Malicious pop-ups, websites, and apps

Malicious pop-ups, websites, and apps are all created for a one simple reason – to trick online users into giving up their sensitive data or infecting their devices with spyware or other kinds of malicious software. Remember that a single click on a questionable pop-up could lead to disastrous consequences.

Connecting to unknown Bluetooth devices

Just as connecting to a public WiFi network is risky business, so is connecting to unknown Bluetooth devices. Establishing such a connection can provide bad actors the right avenue to access and hack your device in a relatively simple and quick manner.

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How to remove a hacker from your phone

If you have discovered that your phone has indeed been hacked, you have ways to remove unwanted software from your phone. However, we first recommend changing your passwords for all your online accounts, especially if you had saved passwords on your phone. Also, it is generally a good idea to inform your contacts that your phone has been hacked and let them know that suspicious messages could be coming their way. Other than that, here are a few proven ways to help you remove undesirable software from your mobile device.

Run anti-malware software

Running a scan for malicious software on your device is one of the quickest and surest ways to get rid of dubious software installed on your phone. Regular scans are recommended to stay on top of your phone’s security.

Remove unknown or unauthorized apps

If you’ve found out your phone has been hacked, it’s best to run a full-on audit of the apps on your phone. Apps that you did not install yourself should be removed from your mobile device immediately.

Restore your phone to the factory settings

Sometimes restoring your phone’s factory settings is the quickest and easiest way to get rid of malware. Keep in mind that restoring your mobile device to factory settings means that all the data stored on it will be wiped for good. Here’s how you can restore factory settings on your iOS or Android device:

How to restore factory settings on an iOS device:

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select General.

  3. Scroll down and select Transfer or Reset iPhone.

  4. Tap Reset.

How to restore factory settings on an Android device:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Select System.

  3. Tap the Reset option.

  4. Select Erase all data (factory reset).

  5. Select Reset Phone.

How to remove a hacker from your phone

How to secure your phone from hackers

These days, cybersecurity is a hot topic and for good reason. With cyber crime becoming more prevalent by the day, it is critical to foster firm security habits that can minimize the risk of falling victim to a hack. To ensure that your phone is impenetrable for bad actors, we’ve compiled a few easy-to-follow security tips.

Don’t use public WiFi without a VPN

Refrain from using public WiFi hotspots without network security tool such as a VPN. As we already discussed, public WiFi is the perfect hunting ground for bad actors. However, if you use a VPN – which encrypts outgoing and incoming traffic – the chances of getting your phone hacked will be almost zero.

Turn off Bluetooth and WiFi hotspots

Make sure to keep your Bluetooth and WiFi hotspot turned off when you are not using them. Bad actors are known to take advantage of such connections to gain access to your phone and network data.

Use anti-virus and anti-malware software

Having a reliable anti-malware tool on your phone will significantly reduce the risk of getting the device infected with any type of malicious application. Such tools are designed to detect and warn you about potential dangers in advance.

Download and install authorized apps

Stick to apps that are authorized and verified. Never install apps from questionable third-party websites or other dubious sources. Sticking to Google Play Store and the App Store is your best bet to avoid downloading and installing malware. However, there have been instances when hackers are able to bypass the security of official app stores, so it is best to take the time and double-check the apps legitimacy and reputation before downloading and installing it on your device.

Update apps and your phone’s OS regularly

App and OS updates are there for more than simply making the user’s experience better. Developers use updates to cover potential attack vectors and ensure the best possible security for your device. For maximum security, be sure to run regular app and OS updates.

Never leave your phone unattended

Leaving your phone unattended can simply result in theft. That much is true. But what is also true is that bad actors can be much more cunning. Leaving your phone unattended provides hackers with direct physical access to your device. As you can imagine, your phone is at the hacker’s mercy.

Use multi-factor authentication for your accounts

Simply put, multi-factor authentication is an additional layer of security. Think of it as an authentication method that requires multiple steps to prove the user’s identity besides a username and a password. Usually, when MFA is in use you will have to enter a special code that can be sent to you via text or an authentication app to be authorized.

Use strong passwords and a password manager

Passwords provide a secure gateway to our online accounts. Making sure they are strong is crucial if you wish to stay secure in the online world. When it comes to phone security, it is best to rely on PINs and passwords that are as long and as complex as possible. Doing so will lower the chances of unauthorized access.

It is true that coming up with powerful passwords for online accounts can be a challenge because they require at least 12 characters, a mixture of numbers, letters, and special symbols. But here’s where password managers come in handy. Say you use NordPass. Well, in such a case you can generate unique and complex passwords on the spot. What’s even better is that NordPass offers a secure way to store and access all those passwords whenever you need them. With a password manager and great password security habits, you will significantly lower the risk of being hacked.

Bottom line

Having your phone hacked can be stressful. With all the news of what a data breach could result in, it is more than understandable. However, if you take appropriate steps to ensure the security of your device, the risk of being a hacker’s prey will be minimized. The tricky thing is making cybersecurity a part of your daily routine. If you're successful in doing so, the online world will be much more enjoyable.

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