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5 Simple Steps to Protect Your Phone From Hackers to Prevent Identity Theft and Blackmail

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Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Herby has a healthy obsession with all things technology, especially smartphones. He loves to rip things apart to see how they work. He is responsible for the editorial direction, strategy, and growth of Gotechtor.

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When a hacker gains access to a person’s phone, he or she could seriously damage one’s life, identity, and financial standing.

Whether through victimization by phishing scams, financial theft, or the sheer ability to spy on individuals, the harm done through a hacked phone can be devastating, especially in a day and age when most individuals’ lives are, to some degree, stored on their devices.

Hacked phones can sometimes be easy to spot because of obvious problems. However, hackers can also be very stealthy, hiding their activity in the background to steal user data.

Those concerned may want to learn how to tell if their phone has been hacked. This post will provide important information about assessing whether your phone was hacked and what to do about it.

What Is Phone Hacking?

Much like people’s PCs, phones contain a ton of important and private user information, arguably even more so.

Considering that most people do banking, pay bills, access subscription-based apps, and enter various passwords, a phone is a nearly irresistible hacker target.

By infecting phones with trojan viruses and malicious programs (malware), a hacker can monitor all activity on the phone.

Not only can a hacker view real-time actions on a compromised device, but they can also install keylogger scripts that provide them with all of the passwords that users type in. 

This type of unfettered access could allow hackers to access financial apps, mine cryptocurrency (an activity also known as “cryptojacking”), and dramatically hinder the phone’s responsiveness and performance.

This turns an otherwise useful part of everyday life into a device that puts many important facets at risk.

How to Tell If Your Phone Has Been Hacked

While there is nothing good about having a phone be hacked, it often can be detected readily if one knows the signs to look for.

There are a few tell-tale ways to tell that something isn’t right, and when these aspects are encountered, they should not be overlooked.

How to tell if your phone has been hacked

They include the following:

  1. Unfamiliar apps
  2. Strange pop-ups
  3. Slow performance
  4. Battery drain/overheating
  5. High data usage

We’ll go over each of them down below.

1. Unknown Apps Installed

Unless one is a serial app hoarder, chances are most users are generally aware of what apps they have and have not installed.

Noticing new apps that were not installed before is a clear red flag that someone else has been accessing the phone.

Additionally, if data such as phone calls on the call history list is full of unfamiliar numbers or there are texts the user never sent, the phone may have been hijacked by a hacker. 

2. Unwanted Pop-Ups, Bookmarks, and Changes

Are you starting to notice odd pop-ups appearing on your phone? It may mean that your phone visited a website infected with malware or downloaded something that was brought into the device.

pop-up messages on smartphone

If odd new bookmarks are appearing, or the screen display/layout has changed unacceptably, one can reasonably assume that your phone has been compromised.

Make sure you know how to clear cookies on your phone so hackers cannot get your private information and manipulate the pop-ups you see online.

3. Slowing Down (Performance Deterioration)

phone slow performance

If your phone seems to be running slower and things that used to take half a second now stretch out for what seems like an eternity, including logging into webpages, malware or trojan software might be running in the background, siphoning system resources.

4. Battery Drain / Phone Feels Hot

When many things run in the phone’s background, they tax the battery and, in turn, make the phone hot to the touch.

phone low battery

If a hacker has infested a phone with malware and crypto mining background processes, they will drain the phone’s operating power, and the battery will become hot.

5. High Data Usage

Your browsing habits haven’t changed much, but your phone’s data usage has suddenly increased. This may be a sign that it’s been hacked.

phone high data usage

This spike could be caused by malicious apps running in the background, like spyware, transmitting data, such as your browsing history or even personal information, back to a remote server.

Steps to Take If Your Phone Has Been Hacked

If a phone is hacked or even suspected of being hacked, several important actions need to be taken promptly.

  1. If the phone doesn’t already have security software, it should be installed, updated, and run immediately.
  1. Any apps that were not downloaded by the phone’s user should be uninstalled. Any unknown texts should also be reviewed and deleted. Once all of those things are done, the security software should be set to run regularly.
  1. Back up all photos, videos, contacts, and other important data to the cloud, then reset the phone to its factory settings.
  1. Almost all phones have a factory reset option in their settings menu, though the procedure for doing it is specific to each phone model.
  1. Since financial information is one of the hackers’ prime targets, it is very important to review all credit card statements and bank activity to ensure no unauthorized purchases have been made.

Beyond that, all previous phone passwords should be reset to newer ones. It is also a good idea to log out of any accounts that apps are logged into. 

How to Protect Your Phone From Being Hacked

Many instances of hacking occur because users are careless or too trusting.

Perhaps complete avoidance of hacking is not feasible on any device that can access the internet. Still, there are certainly a number of methods that can mitigate the potential for such a compromise. 

1. Keep Apps and the Latest Software on the Phone Updated Regularly

This goes for more than just security updates. Many updates repair vulnerable app software aspects, so it is important to go after the latest and greatest updates when possible.

2. Use VPN in Areas of Public Wi-Fi

Using public WiFi is sometimes necessary, but it is risky since hackers can access phones in many areas, including libraries, hotels, resorts, and airports.

Because the networks are public, activities done while connected to them are visible to others.

However, using a VPN (virtual private network) secures one’s access by bouncing would-be hackers into different, confusing locations.

VPNs offer more than just online privacy. You can learn more about their benefits here.

3. Keep the Phone Nearby

While many criticize those who are “too close” to their devices, leaving a phone unattended is not a good idea, as a bad actor could access it and install malware.

What really helps is a passcode that is easy for the user to remember but hard for anyone else to figure out. Some newer phones even offer face recognition or thumbprint ID to get in.

4. Avoid Third-party App Stores

Established app stores like Apple and Google have protections in place that help keep the apps they offer secure (though that is not fully guaranteed).

However, third-party app stores should be avoided. Many of them exist solely to sell malware and phishing apps.

5. Don’t Use Public Charging Stations

Utilizing public phone charging stations, a common charging mistake among iPhone users, poses a significant risk of being “juice jacked” by hackers.

These malicious actors can install malware directly into the charging connections, compromising the security of your device.

When the phone is charging, the malware installs and pumps a lot of sensitive information over to hackers.

While it may be tempting to use a public charger when your phone charges run low, investing in a power pack is much better. Most of those are not expensive and have 3 to 4 full phone charge-ups per full charge.

I’m a big fan of this power bank. I’ve been using it for some time now, and it never fails me.

Wrap Up

This topic is bound to make anyone paranoid, and while that is not the intent, it is certainly not a negative trait when protecting data.

The key to keeping your phone safe from hackers is using common sense and making smart choices.

Don’t be fooled by something that appears harmless – it could still be a security risk.

If a phone has been hacked, backing up all information and files and resetting the phone are vital to protecting data as quickly and effectively as possible. 

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Herby has a healthy obsession with all things technology, especially smartphones. He loves to rip things apart to see how they work. He is responsible for the editorial direction, strategy, and growth of Gotechtor.

Herby Jasmin

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