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AVG Signal Blog Privacy Hackers Is My Phone Hacked? Symptoms & Solutions to Phone Hacking
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Written by Samuel Kellett
Updated on May 30, 2024

How to know if your phone has been hacked

You will know your phone has been hacked if you experience strange device behavior such as slower performance, overheating, strange pop-ups or apps appearing, or poor data connections. A combination of these issues is a likely sign that your device has been compromised.

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    Here are the main signs of a hacked phone:

    1. It's running slower than usual

    One of the most common hacked phone signs is a drop in performance that leaves you wishing you could speed up your iPhone or Android. If websites are taking too long to load or if your apps are suddenly crashing, malware may be hogging your phone’s bandwidth or processing power.

    2. Your phone feels hot

    Is your phone overheating, even when you haven’t been actively using it? Phones can heat up during prolonged periods of intensive use, like while streaming or gaming for hours. But if it’s not you causing your phone to heat up, it may be a phone hacker.

    3. The battery is draining faster than usual

    If your phone’s battery is draining faster than usual, check if you have a lot of apps open in the background. Background apps can burn through lots of data, and you can save battery power by restricting background app data.

    There are many ways to make your battery last longer, but if everything is otherwise normal, shorter battery life may be one of the signs of a hacked phone.

    Here’s how to check your phone’s battery usage:

    1. Open Settings > Battery to view usage details (this is called "Device Care" on some Samsungs).

    2. Review apps and processes for any unusual power consumption.

      Reviewing battery consumption for signs of phone hacking on iPhone and Android.

    4. You notice service disruptions

    Experiencing the occasional dropped call or bad internet connection is common, but if these disruptions become more frequent, you need to find out whether the problem is due to widespread outages or your device.

    • Check the service status on your provider's website or app for reported outages in your area.

    • Contact customer support directly to verify outage information or troubleshoot individual connectivity issues.

    • Monitor social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook for updates from your provider or other users who may be experiencing similar issues.

    • Stay informed through local news sources or community forums.

    By taking these steps, you can better understand the nature of the disruptions and take appropriate action to resolve them.

    5. Strange pop-ups appear

    If you’re seeing more pop-up ads on your Android or iPhone than usual, your cell phone may be infected with adware, a type of malicious software that inundates you with ads — use a free adware cleaner to remove it. Remember, never tap any suspicious ads or links as this could trigger a malware download or lead to a hack.

    6. Websites look different

    Sometimes websites change the look of their homepage because of a holiday or special marketing campaign. But if many sites look different than normal, it could signify a hacked phone. Malware on your phone could be acting as a proxy between you and the web, redirecting your traffic to other sites.

    7. New apps appear

    While we’ve all downloaded apps we immediately forget about, one of the signs a phone hacker has accessed your phone can be the presence of apps you don’t recognize. If you don’t have a clean phone library, a single extra app with malicious intent may go unnoticed.

    If you see an unfamiliar app, don't open it — look it up online. And make sure to assess iPhone or Android apps for safety before downloading them.

    8. Apps stop working properly

    Hacked iPhone and Android apps can behave erratically with frequent crashes, unexpected app permission requests, or unusual messages. These pose significant risks to your mobile privacy and data.

    In one prominent example, the gaming app Scary Granny was removed from the Play Store after displaying malicious activity that included serving phishing messages. Security researchers found that the app could activate and display full-screen ads without appearing in the device’s running applications list — unusual behavior for apps lacking admin privileges.

    9. You receive unknown calls and texts

    As well as receiving unknown calls and texts, a hacked phone may also experience trouble sending and receiving messages. Your phone can’t be hacked just with a regular call — but phone hackers can use fake text messages to infect your phone, and suspicious no caller ID calls may be part of a wider ploy to access your device.

    Some iPhone hacked messages can even carry interaction-less iOS bugs that can infect your device without you clicking anything.

    10. Strange messages are sent from your phone

    Malware can spread via text messages from your phone by sending malicious links to your contacts list. When these links are clicked, the malware is installed on their devices, allowing it to propagate and infect even more devices.

    If someone tells you that you’ve called or texted them when you haven’t, it’s possible your cell phone has been hacked. Conversely, be sure to inform friends and family if you receive odd messages or calls from them.

    11. You're running out of data

    If you notice unexplained spikes in data usage, someone might be stealing your data for an attack. A hacked iPhone or Android device can use your data to transmit information collected from your phone.

    Here’s how to check your data usage for unexpected spikes.

    For iPhone users:

    1. Go to Settings > Cellular/ Mobile Data.

    2. Check app data usage for unusual data consumption.

      Checking for spikes in data usage on an iPhone which could signify phone hacking.

    For Android users:

    1. Open Settings > Network & Internet/ Connections > Data Usage.

    2. Review app data usage for anything suspicious.

      Checking for spikes in data usage on an Android which could signify phone hacking.

    12. You get unexpected charges

    If you have unexpected charges that your phone company can't account for, they may come from the extra data usage described above. If someone is using your phone remotely, they could be calling people or using premium services. Mysterious charges should be investigated to rule out cell phone hacking.

    Check for unexpected phone bills by either logging into your mobile service provider account or checking your bank statements.

    You should also check for unexpected charges linked to your Android or Apple ID accounts:

    • Review credit card or bank statements for any unfamiliar charges.

    • Monitor notifications from Apple Pay or Google Pay for unauthorized transactions.

    Be aware of small “test” purchases. Hackers sometimes start with small unauthorized transactions before attempting to charge a larger amount.

    Some mobile apps even lure you in with a free trial, which turns into a paid subscription with outrageous fees charged to your mobile app account days later. If this happens, unsubscribe from within the app — simply deleting it will not work.

    Protect your phone against threats with AVG AntiVirus for Android or AVG Mobile Security for iPhone. Both apps offer additional layers of protection against hackers, helping to secure your phone and protect your personal information.

    13. You’re locked out of accounts

    Being locked out of your Apple ID, Google account, or Samsung account may indicate a hack. Follow these steps to investigate:

    1. Check for unauthorized access. If you receive emails indicating suspicious account activity such as unrecognized log-ins, account changes, or modifications to your account settings, it could be a sign that a hacker has gained access.

    2. Verify your account status. Log into your Apple ID or Android account using your credentials. If you’re unable to access your account or encounter unusual error messages, it may indicate a lockout due to unauthorized access.

    14. Your camera or microphone keeps turning on

    Unexpected camera or microphone activity may indicate unauthorized access to your phone’s system. When hackers remotely activate your camera or microphone without your knowledge they typically want to steal sensitive information.

    Look for the colored dot at the top of your phone’s screen that signals your iPhone’s camera (green dot) or microphone (orange dot) is active. On Androids, a green dot is used for both.

    An orange dot displayed at the top of an iPhone home screen showing that the microphone is activated.

    If you suspect your phone has been compromised in this way, or any other, take immediate action to secure your device.

    What to do if your phone is hacked

    If your phone is hacked, turn off Wi-Fi, uninstall suspicious apps, and run an anti-malware scan. You can also reset your phone to factory settings. It’s crucial to act quickly to mitigate potential damage and stop the threat — to you and your contacts.

     If a phone hacker has infiltrated your phone, uninstall apps, disconnect Wi-Fi, run a scan, and do a reset.If your phone is compromised, uninstall apps, disconnect Wi-Fi, run a scan, and consider a factory reset.

    1. Disconnect your phone from the internet

    Turning off Wi-Fi and mobile data connections cuts the link between your phone and the hacker, preventing further device access and data theft.

    Here’s how to disconnect your phone from the internet:

    1. Open Settings > Network & internet or Connections, or similar options. For iPhone, scroll down from Settings and tap Wi-Fi or Cellular (you’ll need to disable them separately).

    2. Toggle the switch next to Wi-Fi or Cellular Data to turn off the respective connection.

      iOS and Android screenshots showing mobile data and WiFi connection options.

    Keep your phone’s internet connection off until you have completed the steps below.

    2. Remove suspicious apps

    Whether you installed a new app shortly before you were hacked or a new app has suddenly appeared, you must uninstall it — it might contain Android spyware or other malware. Some Android spyware even works when your phone is off.

    To remove apps from your Android:

    1. Open Settings > Apps or Applications. On some Androids you then need to tap Manage apps.

    2. Tap any app you don’t recognize or trust and select Uninstall to remove it from your device.

      Deleting an app on Android.

    To remove apps from your iPhone:

    1. Tap and hold the app icon and select Remove App.

    2. Tap Delete App to uninstall it from your iPhone.

      Deleting an app on iPhone.

    After removing suspicious apps, keep looking out for unusual behavior or signs of hacking, and use anti-malware software to help remove lingering traces of malware.

    3. Run an anti-malware scan

    You may need to remove malware from your phone, in which case you’ll need a reputable anti-malware or antivirus app that can detect and remove deeply embedded malware.

    Here’s how to perform a full scan with one of the best free antivirus apps:

    1. Install AVG AntiVirus for Android or AVG Mobile Security for iPhone.

    2. Open AVG AntiVirus or AVG Mobile Security and tap Run Scan.

    3. Follow the on-screen prompts to remove any malware that has been detected.

      Screenshots showing AVG Mobile Security for iPhone performing a security scan.

    4. Factory reset your phone

    If all else fails, perform a factory reset to restore the system to its out-of-the-box configuration. This will clear all other data on the device — meaning your photos, apps, and settings will also get wiped along with any malware.

    To perform a factory reset on an iPhone:

    1. Go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone.

    2. Tap Erase All Content and Settings > Continue.

       Screenshots showing how to perform a factory reset on iPhone.

    To factory reset Android devices:

    1. Go to Settings > General Management > Reset.

    2. Tap Factory data reset and follow the prompts.

      If your phone has been hacked, factory resetting your Android will remove malware.

    Once you restart your device, reconnect to a safe Wi-Fi connection and install a previous backup on your phone from before the hack — otherwise, you’ll simply reinstall a copy of the malware.

    5. Review app permissions

    After a factory reset, review any malware-corrupted app permissions and disable any unnecessary permissions.

    To change app permissions on iPhone:

    1. Open Settings and select the app you want to modify permissions for.

    2. Tap the app to view its settings, then Toggle off the permissions you want to remove.

      Accessing and configuring app permissions for iPhone.

    To change app permissions on Android:

    1. Open Settings > Apps or Applications. On some Androids you then need to tap Manage apps. Select the app you want to modify permissions for.

    2. Tap Permissions or App permissions, then tap the permissions you want to remove.

      Changing app permissions on Android.

    How do hackers hack your phone?

    The most dangerous hackers use a mix of technical wizardry and social engineering tricks to exploit the humans behind the phones. Attacks can range from a phishing email to intercepting your connection over unsecured Wi-Fi.

    Phone hackers can use a variety of techniques to infiltrate your mobile device.Phone hackers can use a variety of techniques to infiltrate your mobile device.

    Common phone-hacking techniques

    • Phishing: Attacks vary from simple email phishing scams to highly targeted spear phishing schemes. The aim is to get information that helps attackers gain access to your device.

    • Malware: Sneaky apps known as Trojans are disguised as legitimate software, but harbor threats such as phone tracking tools.

    • SIM swapping: By convincing your service provider to transfer your phone number to their SIM card, hackers can receive your messages and hack through two-factor authentication.

    • Bluetooth connections: Hackers can exploit unsecured Bluetooth connections to install malware to help intercept calls or steal personal data like messages and passwords.

    • Unsecured Wi-Fi: Hackers can exploit unsecured public networks to gain access to your phone.

    • Juice jacking: Public charging stations can be corrupted to insert malware directly into your phone via the wired connection.

    • Cryptojacking: Hackers can install miner virus malware on your phone to hijack its resources for mining cryptocurrency.

    One of the best ways to protect against phone hacking is to be aware of scams and shore up your defenses by installing a trusted cybersecurity app like AVG AntiVirus for Android or AVG Mobile Security for iPhone.

    Can someone hack my phone by calling me?

    It’s unlikely that your phone can get hacked through a call, but phone calls can be part of a larger social engineering or hacking attack. In phone-based phishing (vishing), attackers can pose as legitimate entities or IT support to trick you into revealing personal data — like login credentials or credit card details — that can be used for hacks.

    Can someone hack my phone by texting me?

    Your phone can be hacked via text messages. Attackers can send you malicious links or attachments in a text that, once clicked or downloaded, can install malware on your phone. This can result in unauthorized access to your device or data theft. Security researchers have also found examples of interaction-less hacking that doesn’t require a target to click a link.

    Can someone hack into my phone remotely?

    It’s possible to remotely hack your phone using techniques such as Trojan malware, phishing links, or exploiting security vulnerabilities in your device’s operating system or applications. Pegasus spyware is a particularly infamous series of iPhone remote hacking.

    Can someone hack my phone from my number?

    You cannot directly hack a phone through a phone number, but it can be used as part of a social engineering attack, such as a SIM swap ploy or vishing attack. Still, even these techniques require more information or steps beyond just knowing your phone number.

    What is the iPhone message hack?

    An iPhone message hack refers to exploiting iPhone’s messaging service, iMessage. Though touted for its security, researchers have found several notable iMessage hacks, including interaction-less (zero-click) attacks that could hack an iPhone via iMessage using a text that doesn’t need to be opened.

    Protect your phone against hacking

    The best way to protect your phone against hacking is to prevent it from happening to begin with. Here are some ways to help prevent phone hacking:

    • Install software updates: Updating your phone’s software is essential for Android and iPhone security, because operating system and app updates often include security patches for newly discovered vulnerabilities.

    • Use strong passwords: Learn how to create strong and unique passwords, and use 2FA on all your online accounts.

    • Avoid using public Wi-Fi: Using unsecured public Wi-Fi can leave your device vulnerable to bad actors on the network who want to steal sensitive data or access your device.

    • Use a VPN: If you have to use public Wi-Fi, protect yourself by setting up a mobile VPN on iPhone or Android. A VPN encrypts your web traffic whenever you connect to the internet, which stops snoops from seeing your online activity.

    • Clear your cache: Hackers can steal sensitive data stored in your cache or inject it with malicious code. Regularly clearing your cache on Android or iPhone can reduce your attack surface.

    • Minimize personal data storage: The more personal data stored on your phone, the bigger the prize for hackers.

    • Turn off Bluetooth: Bluetooth is another attack vector through which hackers can gain unauthorized access to your phone. Disable Bluetooth when not in use and don’t trust unknown Bluetooth devices.

    • Change your SIM’s PIN: SIM cards often have a default PIN that can easily be hacked. Changing your SIM’s PIN can prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access to your SIM and your mobile network.

    • Spot illegitimate websites: Knowing how to check if a website is safe can save you from trouble. Use a website checker to spot fake websites by verifying domain reputation, SSL certificates, and online reviews for authenticity and security assurance.

    • Use encrypted messaging apps: You can help protect against security exploits by using a secure messaging app and other trusted security apps for iPhone or Android.

    • Stay alert to phishing scams: Keep informed on the latest phishing scams by subscribing to alerts or articles, and protect your phone with antivirus software that automatically blocks suspicious activity.

    Help prevent hacks with AVG

    Even if you’re careful, hackers continue to discover innovative new hacking tools to get into your devices. If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, AVG Mobile Security for iPhone will help keep you safer by automatically checking that your Wi-Fi network is secure, as well as monitoring online databases to ensure none of your passwords have been stolen.

    AVG also offers powerful protection for Android devices. AVG AntiVirus for Android helps protect your phone against malware, unsolicited calls, and other malicious activity. It also gives you additional anti-hacking protection by locking apps with sensitive information.

    Block hackers and get real-time mobile protection with AVG AntiVirus

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    Block hackers and get real-time protection with AVG Mobile Security

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    Hackers
    Privacy
    Samuel Kellett
    12-05-2021