Warning: Your Phone has been Hacked!

Warning: Your Phone has been Hacked!

For many of us, there are few things more critical to our day-to-day functioning than our smart phone.  It not only keeps us in touch, but also tells us where to go when, answers our questions, and entertains us.  The mere thought of losing our phone brings on anxiety, but a lost phone (if it’s backed up) may be much preferable to one that’s been hacked.  Think of the personal data stored on phones — emails, phone numbers, addresses, schedules, passwords, photos of our kids, our banking app.  What mischief could be done with such information in the wrong hands?   We’ve now moved past anxiety to a panic attack.  Let’s take a deep breath.  There are steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are the signs of a hacked phone and suggestions for what you can do about it.

The Warning Signs

If your phone has been tampered with the signs may be obvious — strange texts or emails are sent from your phone, new apps appear on your device that you didn’t install, or random messages “pop up” asking you to take some action.  These red flags may prompt you to act quickly.  But, more subtle signs that you are a victim of hacking may be ignored.  Your phone is running slower, the battery is draining faster, or the device is physically hotter (as though it’s hard at work).  Perhaps apps are not working properly, websites look different, or your calls keep getting dropped.  All of these glitches could signal a hacker at work.  There are more benign reasons these problems might occur, but don’t be too quick to dismiss changes in your phone’s functionality.

If you are suspicious, do some deeper digging. Check your phone for usage patterns and the history of outgoing texts, calls, or internet browsing.  If someone else is controlling or sending information from your phone to an external entity these are clear signs.   You should also check your phone bill to see if you are being charged for extra data use or app purchases that you didn’t make.

How To Fix It

If you think you’ve been hacked, some immediate steps to take include removing unknown apps and using an anti-malware software to clean up your device.  You may even wish to wipe the phone and restore it to its factory settings. Before doing so, you can take it to a retail location of your service provider and ask them to run a diagnostic test to look for malware.

Protect Yourself

A much better scenario than wiping your phone and losing private data is not getting hacked in the first place.  A number of precautions you can take will make hacking your device harder to do.  In past blog posts, TECHPol has warned of the dangers of buying apps from third party app stores, using public WiFi, and responding to texts from unknown senders. Other tips to protect your phone include securing your device with a passcode, updating your operating system and the software running on your phone, and installing antivirus software.

Defensive measures along with a healthy dose of suspicion when things don’t seem quite right can go a long way to ensure you aren’t a phone hacker’s victim.