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6 ways to secure your smartphone from hackers

If you don’t secure your smartphone, hackers could gain remote access to it and steal your data, from bank details to your private photos. You don't want your personal devices being ransacked by criminals. So, how can your phone be hacked? And what can you do about it?

Zen Bahar

Zen Bahar

Mar 10, 2021 · 5 min read

6 ways to secure your smartphone from hackers

The 3 layers of smartphone security

Your phone has 3 weak points: unsecure apps, personal data, and the device itself. Hackers are most likely to prey on these points to steal valuable information about you.

  • The physical device. Hackers can bypass locks on phones even with subpar security. Fingerprints have been stolen by super-zooming Facebook photos, and Android’s 4.4 pattern lock can easily be bypassed with the “Forgot Pattern” feature if the hacker also has access to your email.
  • Your stored data. A lost or stolen phone is a nightmare for you and free money for a hacker. Login credentials, debit card details, names, contacts, addresses, and any other imaginable personal data sell for a pittance within hacker circles. Even tiny pieces of your information can be merged with synthetic identities to commit fraud in your name.
  • Unsecure apps. Apps have their own inbuilt security features, which are different from your phone’s security. Data sent through apps with poor security can be intercepted by hackers, and then there’s the added threat of fake apps created by fraudsters.
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How can my phone be hacked?

There are 6 ways your phone is likely to be hacked. Let's break each one down, and look at some possible preventative measures.

1: A lost or stolen phone

If you lose your phone, it could end up in the wrong hands. Hackers might guess your passcode or bypass weak pattern locks. If they also have other pieces of information about you, they could quite easily pretend to be you, bypass security checks, and break into your phone.

What can you do?

  • Use iPhone’s Lost Mode to remotely lock your phone. Android’s Lost Phone feature can be activated by signing in to your Google account.
  • Blacklist your lost or stolen phone. You can ask your phone carrier to block services to your phone. Phones with blacklisted IMEI or ESN numbers will be barred.

2: Public Wi-Fi spying

Public Wi-Fi is not secure. Because it’s unencrypted, everyone's data is exposed in the network and can be sniffed out by hackers. That means payment information and other personal data that you transmit could be stolen.

What can you do?

  • Always use a VPN for overall smartphone security. It encrypts your connection, hiding your personal data from any hackers lurking on public Wi-Fi.

3: Phishing attacks

In a phishing attack, a hacker sends you a familiar-looking email or text, hoping that you’ll click on the link inside. The link will either download malware onto your phone or take you to a spoof website designed to steal your personal details.

What can you do?

  • Learn the difference: phishing scammers try to make the sender look as legitimate as possible, but there are often clues. Look for spelling mistakes, small changes to a familiar URL or sender ID, and unusual formatting.
  • Double check with the real company or sender. If you get an unexpected message from a bank or company, contact their helpline directly and ask them if the text or email is genuine.

4: Spoof attacks

If a bank, or any other company, calls you and asks for your password details or urging you to follow instructions, hang up immediately — it's probably a spoof attack. A hacker can “spoof” a familiar number, so the call shows up as being from a local area code, even if the criminal is operating in another country. They'll pretend to be from a real business or government organization, and then ask you to grant them remote access to your device, possibly through downloading certain software. It's a trap — stay alert!

What can you do?

  • Report the call to your service provider or authorities for investigation.
  • Hang up and call the company or person yourself to double-check. Never give callers your passwords, banking details, or personal information. If you already have, change your passwords and inform your bank if you think you’ve been spoofed.

5: Madware and spyware

Madware is a script or program installed onto your phone without consent. It collects data about you to better target you with ads. Worryingly, spyware is usually included in that nice little package. It records your location, internet usage, and your contacts and transmits it to advertisers.

What can you do?

  • Turn off your location services to stop your phone from recording your location, and use a VPN to hide your online activity from trackers.

6: Unsecure apps

In 2019, a security flaw in WhatsApp let hackers remotely install surveillance software on the phones of millions of people. Millions more were scammed by a fake “Updates for Samsung” app. Thousands of fake apps are detected each year in app stores, and, while they might look legitimate, they’re designed to infect your phone and steal your personal data.

What can you do?

  • Learn how to spot fake apps. Check app reviews and never download apps from third-party stores or websites.
  • Always update your apps to fix any dangerous security flaws. If there are apps on your phone you don't use anymore, it's easy to forget to keep them updated, so delete them.

Enhance smartphone security today with NordVPN.

Is the iPhone more secure than Android?

While most phone hacks rely on your negligence, your phone’s inbuilt security still helps. Apple closely inspects all apps for legitimacy, whereas Android’s open Play Store can easily allow hackers to thrive.

Mass iOS updates are great for blanket security across all models, while Android’s inconsistent update policies leave more time for hackers to attack flaws in older software versions. In terms of threat level, Android’s open-source code could invite hackers to inspect it for weak points, while Apple keeps theirs strictly a secret. For a full verdict, check out our review here.

Supercharge smartphone security with a VPN

There's one step you can take today, regardless of your devices' operating system; start using a good VPN. A high-quality VPN service like NordVPN will protect your device and encrypt your data, as well as offering a variety of other useful features.

NordVPN offers powerful encryption, optional ad-blocking capabilities, and a Kill Switch to ensure that your private data is never exposed. With one account, you can cover up to six devices, so you can keep your smartphone protected along with computers, smart TVs, and routers.

Best of all, NordVPN is incredibly easy to use. That's because we believe staying safe online should be easy. With the NordVPN app on your smartphone, you can protect yourself with the click of a button.

Take smartphone security to the next level with powerful VPN encryption.