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How to tell if your phone is hacked

Nov 12, 2020 · 5 min read

How to tell if your phone is hacked

Our phones can touch every part of our lives – while also exposing it to data snatchers or thieves. That’s why it’s important to protect your phone from hackers.

Hackers are always sharpening their tools. Below we will explain how your phone can be hacked and how to identify and remove a hacker from your phone.

How your phone can be hacked

There are many ways to hack your phone. Some don’t even require advanced tech knowledge:

  1. Sim swap attack. By using this attack, hackers can transfer your phone number to their own SIM card and take over your accounts;
  2. Spyware that collects your data. Some spy apps are pretty easy to get hold of and can be used by a person without advanced IT knowledge. This lets them remotely monitor your phone activities. A person can install such an app by getting a direct access to your device;
  3. You might get malware via public Wi-Fi networks or charging stations. Hackers can set up fake Wi-Fi networks, called evil twin networks, to redirect you to malicious websites or steal data via USB cable at a charging station;
  4. Phishing text, Facebook or email messages with malicious links that install malware and snatch your data;
  5. You might also download malware from suspicious sites while downloading apps or by clicking on malicious pop-ups or links.

How to know if your phone is hacked

Have you ever wondered “Is my phone hacked?” Here are some signs:

  1. You notice something you don’t recognize on your phone (e.g., apps you didn’t download, messages you didn’t send, purchases you didn’t make, suspicious phone calls);
  2. Your phone works slow. It uses way more resources and battery power and becomes hotter than usual. Malware working in the background might reduce its power significantly;
  3. Mysterious data usage spikes without any changes on your part. Malicious processes might be consuming your mobile data in the background as they track what you do;
  4. Strange behavior. Apps that don’t run the way they should, switch on and off unexpectedly, or that crash or fail to load;
  5. Pop-ups. If you notice lots of pop-ups appearing on your screen, you probably have spyware or malware.

How to know if your phone camera is hacked

If you suspect that your phone camera was hacked, there are a few more tell-tale signs that someone else is using it remotely. For example, you may notice photos and videos in your gallery that you don’t remember taking. Of course, you can accidentally record something, but if you keep finding new ones, it’s a sign that someone might have control over your camera.

The flash lighting up when you’re not using your phone is another thing to look out for. Both the camera and flash need a lot of resources and battery power. Therefore, if someone is remotely controlling your device, you will notice it getting very hot even when you don’t use it.

How to find out who hacked your phone

Unless the attack was specifically targeted at you, finding the culprit can be quite difficult. Try checking all the apps you don’t recognize and any suspicious phone numbers or social media accounts that have interacted with you. A quick search might find some associations, but tracking hackers usually requires a cybersecurity expert. It’s usually worth it to report such cases to your local or national law enforcement for further investigation.

It’s also worth considering who might have physical access to your phone. If you have a weak password, someone might have guessed it and might have had total access to your device.

How to remove a hacker from my phone

Here’s what to do if your phone has been hacked:

  1. Change your passwords immediately. You can find out our tips for stronger passwords here. You can also use our Nordpass app to store your strong and complex passwords;
  2. Run anti-malware software to detect any malicious applications and processes. Just make sure you use safe and reliable security software that doesn’t track and gather your data;
  3. Turn off your mobile data and Wi-Fi when not using them. This might prevent a malicious app from using your data and can disrupt its activity if it uses online connection;
  4. Remove the suspicious apps immediately. If your security apps don’t find anything, or if you don’t have any, it’s still a good idea to delete any apps you downloaded right before the problems started appearing. Check our guidelines on how to remove unwanted apps;
  5. Inform your friends and contacts and instruct them to ignore suspicious messages coming from you;
  6. Stop broadcasting your personal hotspot when in public as this makes it easier for hackers to breach your device;
  7. Restore your phone to its factory settings. That might help if tons of pop-ups or malicious apps have made your phone impossible to use. This one is a nuclear option, so use it only as a last resort. Here’s how:

Restoring your iPhone

By using Mojave

1. On a device with macOS Mojave 10.14 or earlier, open iTunes;

2. Connect your phone to your computer;

3. Unlock your phone, click Trust and enter your passcode;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

4. Click the small phone icon on top;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

5. Go to Summary and click Restore iPhone…;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

6. Reconfirm your choice. If you have the Find my iPhone app open, the system will ask you to turn it off.

By using Catalina

1. Open Finder in macOS Catalina 10.15;

2. Connect your phone to your computer;

3. Unlock your phone, click Trust and enter your passcode;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

4. Select your device when it appears on the left;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

5. Click Restore iPhone…;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

6. Click Restore again. If you have Find my iPhone app open, the system will ask you to turn it off.

Restoring your Android phone

1. Open Settings;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

2. Go to General management;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

3. Tap Reset;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

4. Press Factory data reset;

How to tell if your phone is hacked

5. Tap Reset.

How to tell if your phone is hacked

Just don’t forget to back up all your important data before restoring your phone.

How to block hackers from my phone

To prevent your phone from being hacked, do the following:

  1. Turn off your hotspot when in public. If you do need to turn it on, make sure you’ve made the settings as secure as possible;
  2. Avoid Wi-FI or charging spots you don’t trust. If you must use public WiFi, never do so without a VPN. Also, don’t forget to disconnect from public Wi-Fi once you’ve stopped using it;
  3. Switch your Bluetooth off when not using it as it can also be an access point for hackers;
  4. Lock your phone with a password or lock screen;
  5. Never leave your phone unattended and don’t let people you don’t know use it;
  6. Regularly review what apps your phone has to see if there are any you don’t recognize;
  7. Do not open suspicious messages, links, or files. They can be malware or spyware in disguise;
  8. Install anti-malware apps and constantly update your software;
  9. Use a VPN to protect your online traffic and browse safely and privately.
  10. Do not use sites you don’t trust. They are a potential source of malware.

Browsing privately with a VPN

Using a VPN while connected to the internet is vital to staying away from trouble. It masks your IP address and encrypts your traffic, thus enhancing your privacy and security. Since hackers won’t be able to identify you online and monitor what you’re doing on your smartphone, they will have fewer ways to harm you.

But don’t be enticed by free VPNs, as they usually have a hidden agenda behind their complimentary services.

NordVPN is an easy-to-use app designed for both novice and expert users. Not only does it provide you with top-notch encryption, but also blocks suspicious ads and pop-ups, which are a common way to distribute malware. If you’re looking to turn your smartphone into a fortress, a VPN service is the answer.

Enhance your smartphone security and stay safe online.

Paul Black
Paul Black successVerified author

Paul is a technology and art enthusiast who is always eager to explore the most up-to-date issues in cybersec and internet freedom. He is always in search for new and unexplored angles to share with his readers.

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