How to check if your phone is hacked? 5 signs to know
Your mobile phone stores a lot of personal information that could be used against you in the wrong hands. Cybercriminals may use malicious code to target your mobile device and steal your personal information. So, if you notice unusual phone behavior, such as increased data usage or new apps you didn't download, you may ask yourself – Is my phone hacked?
Luckily for you, there are clear guidelines on what to do if your phone has been hacked. Avoiding future infections is just as straightforward as using reliable antivirus protection.
If you want to know how to prevent your phone from being controlled by hackers, follow our insights. In this article, we'll provide signs indicating a potential hack and explain how to know if your phone is hacked alongside what you can do to protect it as fast as possible.
Can my phone be hacked?
Yes, hackers successfully target smartphones to spy on private conversations, steal credentials, or distribute mobile malware to other contacts. Even iOS devices that are generally considered secure aren't 100% fool-proof and require additional cybersecurity software.
Mobile-specific malware is increasing as smartphones gradually become primary internet access devices. Cybercriminals exploit public Wi-Fi networks and charging stations to hack unprotected phones. Furthermore, you can catch an infection via SMS messages, fraudulent software in app stores, or simply by leaving your phone unattended in public places.
How do I know if my phone is hacked?
If you're worried about online safety, you might be wondering how can one tell if the phone has been hacked. Here are some warning signs you should not ignore:
If your phone is hacked, you will notice unusual behavior, like flickering screen lights for no reason, dubious applications you did not install, weird files you did not download, or even a surge of SMS messages that seem out of the ordinary.
High data consumption
A hacked phone will consume more data because mobile malware uses the internet connection to display fraudulent apps, send malware to other phones, and send stolen information to attackers.
Noticing unwanted applications you did not install is one of the best ways to tell if your phone is hacked. Infected software downloads from app stores can pack unwanted software that you will find in the smartphone app list.
Increased battery drain
Some mobile malware like Android's Clicker use a lot of smartphone resources, resulting in suspiciously high battery drain. Although smartphone batteries naturally wear out over time, your phone is most likely hacked if the battery drain increases overnight.
Slower phone performance
A malicious app running in the background will significantly slow down the smartphone. You should suspect trouble if your phone takes ages to load up, restart, and launch applications or feels generally laggy.
Unusual messages and calls
Some phone malware will send scammy text messages or make phone calls without your permission. Check your message and call logs if you're unsure whether your phone is hacked.
Even if your phone is working properly and you don't see any warning signs, it doesn't mean it's safe from harm. Extremely sophisticated mobile malware like the renowned Pegasus spyware can infect these devices for years without revealing distinct symptoms.
How to stop someone from hacking your phone
Don't panic if you notice one or more symptoms that your phone has been infected. Here are efficient and easy-to-follow tips on what to do if your phone is hacked, starting with the simplest:
Use an antivirus
A reliable antivirus for mobile phones is the best way to protect your smartphone from external dangers. Here's how:
- Subscribe to secure mobile antivirus. We recommend TotalAV, now 84% OFF!
- Download the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store
- Launch the antivirus and log in with your credentials
- Locate and run a full system scan
- Follow instructions from your antivirus to neutralize and remove the malware, if there is any
- Turn on real-time malware protection to avoid future infections
Don't postpone updates
It's paramount to apply mobile phone and software updates as soon as they come out. They often fix vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could otherwise exploit to hack your phone.
You'll be much safer if you develop good cyber hygiene habits. Uninstall unused apps and delete old files, regularly perform a full system scan by your antivirus, use strong passwords, or, even better, subscribe to a reliable mobile password manager, and never click on backlinks from unverified sources.
Be particularly mindful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. Verify that you are indeed connecting to a safe network, as hackers often set up fake wireless access points to steal user data. Furthermore, consider using a mobile-friendly VPN to prevent Wi-Fi exploits, like the Man-in-the-middle attacks.
Safe browsing habits
Hackers often place malware on shady websites, like dark web forums, illegal gambling or adult content sites, fake lotteries, and such. It's best to refrain from going there at all, but if you find yourself on such websites, do not click on any ads or backlinks, and never download any programs, files, or attachments.
Check app reviews
When downloading mobile software, visit online review sites and app stores to see user opinions. Infected programs can have several or a few dozen positive fake reviews but will not have thousands of legitimate user reviews that popular authorized mobile applications have.
How your phone can be hacked
Most of the time, hackers will use the easiest way to infect mobile devices. Targeting old and unused apps is particularly efficient because they do not receive updates to fix open vulnerabilities. Hackers use such apps as a backdoor to your phone.
Because smartphone users often use public internet access points, Wi-Fi hacking is very common. A hacker may set up a fake access point disguised as a legitimate network. For example, they may set up a Wi-Fi hotspot called Free_Starbucks_Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, a genuine Starbucks Wi-Fi is called Google Starbucks. It's best to verify the legitimate network name with a shop owner before connecting to it.
Hackers also target public Wi-Fi with more sophisticated cyber attacks, like the Man-in-the-middle hack. They can redirect users to mirror sites disguised as legitimate websites. Any credentials used on mirror sites will end up in the criminals' hands, and downloads may contain malware.
Lastly, leaving your phone unattended is risky. A hacker could download a malicious program without you noticing that could later be used to get your banking details or social media logins.
We’ve also prepared a detailed video guide on how to detect and get rid of a bad actor from your phone:
Mobile phones enjoyed a short period of relative safety because there weren't that many mobile-specific malware applications. But as more and more people use smartphones to browse the internet and shop online, cybercriminals are actively developing smartphone hacking tools.
Luckily, it's not that hard to find out whether your phone is hacked. Increased resource consumption, higher battery drain, and decreased phone performance indicate an infection. Simultaneously, unwanted applications you don't remember installing may likely be malware, like keyloggers or trojans.
The best way to protect your phone from hackers is by using an antivirus like TotalAV. Its full system scan will locate and neutralize existing malware, and real-time protection will prevent future infections. However, don't rely solely on software. If you develop safe browsing habits and refrain from visiting shady websites or connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots without double-checking, you will significantly reduce the chances of getting hacked.
More malware removal guides from Cybernews:
What happens when an iPhone is hacked?
You may see a surge of suspicious pop-ups, website redirects, or even dubious SMS messages if your iPhone is hacked. Simultaneously, the iPhone could work much slower with a quicker battery drain, and your contacts may receive strange messages and emails.
Can you check to see if your phone is hacked?
Yes, you can use a reliable mobile antivirus, like , to check if your phone is hacked. Launch your antivirus and perform a full system scan that will identify all existing malware. Then, follow its instructions to neutralize and remove the infection and turn on real-time protection to prevent future contamination.
Can iPhone be hacked through Safari?
That depends. Due to Apple's software sandboxing policies, it’s highly unlikely to be hacked through Safari if you update it to the latest version. However, the Safari browser is just as susceptible to hacking attacks if you jailbreak your iPhone, visit illegal websites, or download files from unverified sources.
Can hackers see you through your phone?
Yes, smartphone camera hacking is extremely common and a huge violation of privacy. Furthermore, applying physical barriers will limit attackers' views but will not remove the spyware from the device. It's best to immediately scan your phone with an antivirus, like , if you suspect your smartphone's camera has been hacked.