Smartphones have become an extension of our everyday lives in today’s digitally connected world. Everything from stock prices, weather, exercise routine, payments, etc., is present within your device, making it a treasure chest for cybercriminals. By compromising these devices, they can get access to your personal information and the ability to commit further fraud by impersonating your digital identity. In this article, we go over the common signs that your phone has been compromised and the steps to take to prevent such an event from happening.
Common signs that your device is hacked
A few common indicators that your phone might have been compromised are:
- Performance and Battery issues: One of the most common signs that your phone might have been compromised is a rapid decline in its performance and battery life. This usually indicates that hackers are running malicious software, causing your battery to drain and your overall phone performance to suffer. Other signs might be your phone frequently crashing or freezing a lot which did not occur before. While these signs might be due to your phone not being updated, insufficient storage, or poor battery life, it is crucial not to rule out the possibility that something malicious is happening.
- A sudden increase in data usage: Another common indicator is a sudden spike in your data usage, which you cannot explain. This is usually due to cybercriminals using your data package to receive and transmit data, resulting in a sudden increase in data consumption. If you cannot explain this increase and have not changed your browsing activities, further investigation might be needed.
- Suspicious browser activity: You might start noticing suspicious pop-ups or ads during your everyday browsing activities that were not present before or even being redirected to strange websites with which you are not familiar. Cybercriminals use compromised phones as a way to generate ad revenue by hijacking browser sessions. It is suggested to re-install your browser, clear your cache and uninstall any browser extensions before doing any further online activity.
- Suspicious messages and calls: Receiving strange-looking text messages containing symbols and links might inculcate that you’re being targeted by cybercriminals who want to use your phone to further spread malware or malicious links to your contacts. It is essential not to respond to such messages and ignore/delete them.
- New apps showing up: Smartphones run on apps, and any device might have hundreds of apps installed at any time. However, if you suddenly notice new and suspicious-looking apps you never remember installing, it could indicate a sign of your device being compromised. Review what types of permissions this app has been granted and remove them if you are unfamiliar.
- Sudden account change notifications: If you suddenly start receiving text messages or emails about account access or your password is reset, it is another indicator of your phone being hacked. More often than not, the smartphone is used as a secondary authentication device along with the password, and hackers will use it to gain access to your accounts. Make sure you have enabled notifications for any account change on your critical accounts so you are notified.
How to verify if your device is compromised
If you observe one or more of these signs on your device, then it is best to validate your suspicious via the following methods:
- Install and run security antivirus software: Choose a reputable security scanning software and run it on your device to verify that no malicious software is present. Make sure you choose one with a good market reputation and is compatible with your device.
- Verify app permissions: If you observe any new apps, validate the permissions granted to them. Excessive app permissions are one of the key ways that cybercriminals gain a foothold on your device. Make sure you review new permissions also whenever you install a new app.
- Perform a factory reset: If you cannot fix the issues affecting your smartphone, a factory reset will restore the device to its default settings and erase all data. Use this as a last measure, however, as it effectively deletes all of the files and data stored on the phone.
Protecting your phone from being compromised
The ideal scenario is that your phone never gets compromised in the first place, so ensure you always follow good security practices. Make sure your phone is constantly updated with the latest version of the operating system and its apps. These are released to fix security issues and vulnerabilities which can be exploited by cybercriminals, so do not delay keeping your phone up to date.
Additionally, the following precautions are also advised:
- Be aware of the new types of threats and scams that are being used to trick smartphone users so you do not fall victim to the same
- Enable strong passwords along with multi-factor authentication on your critical accounts.
- Enable notifications for all sensitive activities so you are informed if any changes happen.
- Do not download apps from sources you are unaware of; only use trusted stores like App or Google.
- Use VPNs when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks to provide an extra layer of security and encryption of your data.
- Make sure your data is backed up to cloud storage so that you can retrieve it in case of factory resets or device compromise.
Smartphones are and will remain a key target of cyber criminals, given the amount of data they contain and the access they grant. Users cannot afford to be complacent about these threats and must educate themselves on the emerging types of threats. Taking proactive measures can significantly reduce the risk of your devices being compromised.
What are the common signs that my phone has been hacked?
Some common signs include unexpected battery drain, unexplained data usage spikes, strange text messages and calls, unfamiliar apps or icons, performance issues, and unusual browser activity.
How can I confirm if my phone is hacked?
To confirm if your phone has been hacked, perform a security scan using a reputable antivirus app, analyze app permissions, check for device updates, and consider performing a factory reset if necessary.
How can I protect my phone from hacking?
To protect your phone, use strong passwords and enable two-factor authentication, regularly update your phone’s operating system and apps, avoid downloading apps from unknown sources, be cautious when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, regularly backup your important data, and stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats.
Are there any antivirus apps that can help protect my phone?
Yes, several reputable antivirus apps are available for Android and iOS devices such as Guardio .These apps can help you detect and remove malicious software from your phone and provide additional security features.