How to know if your phone has been hacked
There will always be hackers, but you can keep your data safe by watching out for signs of foul play. Here’s how to tell if your phone has been hacked.
It’s running slower than usual
One of the most common phone hacked signs is a drop in performance. If websites are taking too long to load, or if your apps are suddenly crashing when you use them, malware may be hogging your phone’s bandwidth or processing power. You may also experience trouble with sending and receiving messages or when trying to turn your phone on and off.
Your phone feels hot
Does your phone ever feel hot, even when you haven’t been actively using it? Phones can heat up during prolonged periods of intensive use, like while streaming a movie or gaming for hours, but if it’s not you that’s causing your phone to heat up, it may be someone else.
You’re draining battery 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 a sign your phone has been hacked.
While it isn’t uncommon to occasionally experience a dropped call or a bad connection, if service disruptions have become increasingly regular, it may be time to ask: Is my phone hacked?
If you’re seeing a lot more pop-up ads than usual, your phone may be infected with adware, a type of malicious software that inundates you with ads. Never tap any suspicious ads or links.
Websites look different
Sometimes Google will change the look of their homepage for a special day, but if you’re noticing that many sites look different than they usually do, it could signify a hacked iPhone or Android.
Malware on your phone could be acting as a proxy between you and the web, redirecting your traffic to other sites. Knowing how to check if a website is safe can help you protect yourself.
New apps appear
While we’ve all downloaded an app and then immediately forgotten about it, one of the signs a phone hacker has accessed your phone may be the presence of apps you don’t recognize. In a messy phone library, a single extra app with malicious intent may go unnoticed.
If you see an unfamiliar app, look it up online — you may need to remove malware from your phone. And make sure to assess apps for safety before downloading them.
Apps stop working properly
If your apps are frequently quitting, or your phone is regularly freezing up, it may be because your cell phone was hacked and malware is using up your phone’s resources.
Poor performance could also signal that you need to update your phone’s software, which is essential for phone security. Before shelling out for a new phone, try our tips to speed up your iPhone or boost your Android.
You receive unknown calls and texts
Can someone hack your iPhone through text? Can someone hack into your phone by calling you? It’s unlikely someone can directly hack your phone by calling you (though they could attempt to phish for information), but text hacking is another story.
While many hacked text messages require you to click on a suspicious link, an iPhone message hack with interaction-less iOS bugs can use a text message to infect your phone, even without you doing anything. You can protect against these exploitable vulnerabilities by using an encrypted messaging app to keep the data secure.
If someone tells you that you’ve called or texted them when you haven’t, it’s likely your phone has been hacked. Inform friends and family if you receive strange messages or calls coming from them.
Running out of data
If you’re noticing unexplained spikes in your data usage, you may not be the only one using your data. A hacked iPhone or Android device can use your data to transmit information collected from your phone.
Unexpected bill charges
If you have unexpected charges that your phone company can’t account for, they may be coming 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 malware.
Fleeceware apps can charge outrageous subscription fees and may also be the cause of your billing issues. These apps usually lure you in with a free trial, which turns into a paid subscription a few days later. If you find one of these on your phone, unsubscribe from within the app — simply deleting it won’t work.
Protect your phone against threats like these with AVG AntiVirus for Android or AVG Mobile Security for iPhone. Both apps offer an additional layer of protection against hackers and will secure your phone and protect your personal information.
The techniques phone hackers use
So how are these hackers able to get into your phone in the first place? The most dangerous and famous hackers use a mix of technical wizardry and social engineering tricks to exploit the humans behind the phones.
Phone hackers can use a variety of techniques to infiltrate your mobile device.
Here are some of the most common techniques hackers use to hack phones:
Phishing involves using social engineering tactics to fool you into disclosing personal information. A phishing attack can be simple, like an email with a link that says FREE and directs you to a malicious site. Many of today's most famous hackers use phishing attacks in their campaigns.
Or it can be a more complex scheme, like an online quiz that can tell you which Disney princess you are based on your birthday, mother’s maiden name, and the name of your first pet — answers which the attacker can then use to break into your accounts.
Phishing can also be highly targeted, focused on tricking one specific high-level employee into revealing too much information. Focused attacks against senior leadership figures are known as whaling.
One sneaky way to infect a phone with malware is to convince someone to download an app with hidden spy features. This app may be disguised as a game, an app for productivity, or even one promising security, when it’s actually a spyware app tracking your online activities and personal data. Some Android spyware can even spy when your phone isn’t on.
Another type of malicious software for your phone is stalkerware, which tracks your movements, browsing, messages, and calls. Stalkerware is usually installed by someone close to you — when parental control apps are used in this way, they become stalkerware.
Make sure to remove spyware from your Android and get rid of creepy spying apps on your iPhone.
Many two-factor authentication (2FA) procedures confirm your login with a text message sent to your phone. With SIM swapping, hackers try to convince your service provider that your phone number actually needs to be swapped over to a different SIM card (the hacker’s). That way, they’ll receive your authentication messages.
SIM swapping scams usually starts with phishing attempts designed to give the hacker enough information to impersonate you to the service provider. With enough of your personal info, a hacker can use your phone number to initiate a SIM swap.
While it’s unlikely someone can hack into your phone by calling you, you should still protect your phone number: an unknown call now may be part of a plan to hack later.
Cybercriminals can use phishing or other techniques to access your iCloud or Google account. Many people have these accounts linked to their social media, which can be leveraged as a vulnerability to get into your data. With unauthorised access to your accounts, a hacker can see your location information and view your emails, messages, and keychains.
It may make it easier to play music through a speaker, but a wireless Bluetooth connection makes your phone more vulnerable to cyber crime. Hackers can use software to intercept a bluetooth signal and gain access to your phone. Don’t pair your phone with a device you don’t trust, or in a location that’s unsecured.
Similar to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi can also be used by hackers to gain access to your phone. In particular, using public Wi-Fi networks can leave your phone vulnerable to attack, as they may have been set up by a malicious actor waiting for you to connect. It’s also important to change the default password to your home Wi-Fi network to prevent hackers from hacking into your router.
You can protect yourself on public Wi-Fi by setting up a mobile VPN on iPhone or Android. A VPN, or virtual private network, encrypts your connection to prevent bad actors from getting into your phone.
Need to quickly charge your phone at a public charging station? Think twice — the juice jacking scam infects these stations with malware to target people running low on power.
An infected charging station does more than give you a power boost. The malware spreads to your phone, where it can monitor what you do, collect and transmit your private data, and even make a withdrawal from your bank account.
If you use mobile charging stations, protect your phone with a cybersecurity app from a trusted provider. AVG AntiVirus for Android and AVG Mobile Security for iPhone keep your phone safe from malicious activity, ensuring that your data and apps are always protected.
My phone was hacked, how do I fix it?
If you think your phone has been hacked, there are ways to find and remove malware on Android phones or iPhones — you can remove malicious apps, clear your cache and downloads, or even fully wipe your phone.
But the safest method is to protect your phone against hacks in the first place with one of the best free antivirus apps available.
Protect your phone against hacking
Even if you’re always careful, hackers are constantly building new hacking tools to get into your devices. If you’re an iPhone user, AVG Mobile Security for iPhone/iPad will keep you safe 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 protects your phone from malware, unsolicited calls, and other malicious behaviors. It also gives you additional anti-hacking protection by locking apps with sensitive information. Plus, anti-theft defenses help you locate and even wipe your phone remotely if it’s ever lost or stolen.