How to tell if your phone has been hacked

by Mark Ritter

Nowadays, there are a few things our smartphones can’t do. They’ve gotten so powerful and integrated into our lives that it’s easy to argue that they are more important than computers.

Unsurprisingly, cybercriminals now frequently target smartphones because of all the valuable data they can contain. Meanwhile, disguised malware continues to show up in app stores despite Google and Apple trying to root it out.

The McAfee 2020 Mobile Threat Report (PDF) notes that hackers harm smartphone users in various ways, including stealing information, hiding malware, serving unwanted ads, and more. Here are the warning signs that you should be on the lookout to keep your smartphone and data safe.

Your Smartphone is Acting Strange

Over time, it’s natural for smartphones to start getting a little slow. But if your new Samsung Galaxy suddenly can’t load a YouTube video, you might have a problem. Pay attention to some of these performance issues:

  • Are web pages taking a long time to load?
  • Does your battery drain quickly?
  • Are you exceeding your cellular data limits?
  • Does your phone feel hot?
  • Are you having difficulty performing basic phone functions or changing settings?

If any of this seems familiar, you may have downloaded a malicious app or file that is harming your phone’s performance.

Unexplained Apps or Activity

With so many apps on your phone, it can be easy to lose track of them. But you know yourself. If you fear flying and suddenly have thirteen travel apps, something isn’t right.

Unexplained apps, along with other irregular activities like calls, messages, and emails you didn’t send, sign a hacker that has gotten into your phone. They may be using your device to pose as you and send malware to your friends and family.

Pop-Ups, New Browsers, Redirects

One of the most common forms of malware involves serving ads that direct users to less than reputable sites. If you’re getting a flood of ads or your browser settings have been changed to land you on pages constantly, you’re not trying to navigate to, then this is another major clue that your phone has been hacked.

What You Should Do If Your Phone Has Been Hacked

You need to act quickly. The longer a threat actor has access to your smartphone, the more damage they can do.

The first thing you should do is remove the malicious app. It’s likely the malware has been packaged into one of the latest apps you’ve downloaded. So, deleting these apps is essential. However, you might want to go a step further, and factory reset your phone. This has the best ability to remove the malware more comprehensively.

Before you do so, be sure to back up your important data so you can get access to it again later.

Likewise, similar to how you use antivirus software on your desktop computer, you should also use mobile security tools to scan and remove threats from your device.

Finally, to prevent malware attacks on your smartphone in the future, you must avoid public WiFi. Public WiFi is one of the most common places that hackers hide malware to place on unsuspecting victims’ phones. Likewise, they can also use your IP address to track your online activity.

The best advice is then always to hide your IP address. You might be thinking, how do I hide my IP address? It’s quite easy. With a VPN, you both conceal your IP and encrypt your internet connection, making you much safer against digital threats.

After you get a VPN enabled on your smartphone, you create new passwords for your online accounts. Make sure they are unique and complex to make them tough for hackers to crack. This is why you should consider using a password manager to store your passwords securely in a digital vault.

Don’t wait until your smartphone becomes infected. Pay attention to these warning signs and start arming yourself with the right security tools like VPNs, password managers, and mobile security software. There’s no better way to keep your phone safe.

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