Has your phone been acting strangely lately? Unfamiliar apps appearing, unexpected pop-ups, your battery draining faster than normal — these could all be signs your device has been compromised. Phone hacking is on the rise, with hackers constantly coming up with new tactics to access your personal information.
It’s important to stay vigilant and catch a hack early before serious damage is done. A hacked smartphone can give cybercriminals access to your contacts, messages, banking information, and more. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover all the key things you need to know:
- How to tell if your phone has been hacked
- New hacking techniques to watch out for
- Steps to take if you think your phone is compromised
- Ways to secure your device from future attacks
Plus much more advice to help you protect your phone and your valuable data. Let’s dive in!
How to Know If Your Phone Has Been Hacked
Determining if your device has been hacked is the first step toward taking action. Here are some of the most common signs your smartphone may be compromised:
1. Unusual Behavior, Glitches, and Popups
Strange activity on your phone can signal malware, spyware or a virus:
- Popup ads appear randomly, even on brand new phones
- Your homepage or default search engine has suddenly changed without you doing so
- Apps glitch, freeze, or crash unexpectedly
- Typos and autocorrect issues plague your text messages
- Your phone runs slower than normal and takes ages to load apps and webpages
These performance issues indicate suspicious software may have made its way onto your device.
2. High Data Usage
Monitoring your data usage can detect unauthorized access:
- You blow through your monthly data allowance faster than ever
- Background data usage remains high even when you’re not actively using your device
- You get notifications about exceeding your data limits
If an intrusive app is running constantly in the background, it can rack up significant data usage.
3. Rapid Battery Drain
Fast battery drain can also signal hacking activity:
- Your phone’s charge diminishes notably faster than usual
- Even after a full charge, the battery runs down quickly
- You constantly need to recharge your phone
Hacking apps executing code in the background can rapidly siphon battery life.
4. Overheating Device
A hot phone points to hardware strain from malware:
- Your phone feels warm or hot to the touch frequently
- It heats up significantly while charging
- You get warnings that the device needs to cool down before use
The extra processes from hacker software can cause processors to work overtime.
5. Strange Noises, Music, and Voices
Unexpected audio coming from your phone should raise red flags:
- You hear voices, music, or sounds even when no apps are open
- The device makes odd beeping or buzzing noises periodically
This suggests spyware could be secretly recording from your phone’s mic.
6. Weird Camera Activity
Unusual camera behavior may indicate spying apps:
- The camera turns on unexpectedly by itself
- You get notifications that the camera app is open when you didn’t launch it
- You notice green or red lights near the camera that aren’t usually there
These signs point to stealthy apps activating your camera.
7. Texts and Calls Not Received
Missing messages and calls can mean email and SMS forwarding:
- You aren’t receiving texts from certain people
- Calls straight to voicemail when your phone has service
- Friends say they texted or called but you see nothing
Hackers can reroute communications without you ever seeing them.
8. Unfamiliar Apps
Apps you never downloaded could harbor malware:
- Your app pages show downloads you don’t remember getting
- Odd apps have made their way onto your homescreen
- An unfamiliar default keyboard has replaced your normal one
Shady apps that install themselves point toward a compromised device.
9. High External Storage Usage
Surging external storage usage can detect data theft:
- Your SD card or cloud storage fill up mysteriously
- Large amounts of data have transferred onto a computer without your doing so
Hackers may be secretly extracting your personal files and data.
10. Unusual Logins
Unexpected account access alerts fraud and espionage:
- You get notifications about login attempts from unrecognized devices
- Password reset emails come for accounts you didn’t try to change
- Friends or contacts report getting strange messages from your accounts
These should prompt you to check for a potential hack.
11. Hot When Off or Idle
Heat without use warns of crypto mining malware:
- Your phone feels hot even when powered off and idle
- It heats up significantly in your pocket or bag without being handled
- The battery drains rapidly when the phone isn’t in active use
Crypto miners running stealthily in the background mine cryptocurrency using your device’s components, which can cause unusual heating.
What to Dial to See if Your Phone is Hacked
Here are the steps to dial codes on your phone to check for signs of hacking:
- Open the Phone app and tap the keypad icon to open the dialer
- Dial *#06# – This displays your device’s IMEI number. Note this down and check if it matches the IMEI printed on your phone’s box or case. If it doesn’t match, your phone may be hacked.
- Dial *#21# – This launches the hidden menu to check if your phone has been forwarded or redirected calls and messages without your permission. If it shows unknown call forwarding, your phone may be hacked.
- Dial *#62# – This opens the hidden service menu. Tap “Call forwarding status” to see if call forwarding has been enabled without your knowledge, indicating a potential hack.
- Open the Phone app and tap Keypad
- Dial *#06# – This displays your iPhone’s IMEI number. Compare this to the IMEI on the iPhone box or case. If different, it is likely hacked.
- Dial *#21# – You will see a prompt saying call forwarding is not supported. However, if call forwarding details show up, your iPhone may have been hacked.
Checking these codes can reveal key signs of smartphone hacking like spoofed device identifiers, unauthorized call forwarding, and hidden menus. Combine with the other steps covered to protect your phone!
New Hacking Techniques Targeting Smartphones
Hackers continually invent new methods for compromising phones as mobile security evolves. These are some of the latest threats to watch out for:
1. Phishing Attacks
Phishing remains one of the most common and dangerous attacks. It tricks users into inputting sensitive data that hackers capture:
- Spear phishing targets specific individuals with custom-tailored messages designed to steal passwords, financial information, or corporate data. Spear phishing emails often appear extremely legit, fooling even vigilant users.
- SMiShing uses SMS text messages to phish victims and distribute malware. Links sent via text can avoid email security filters.
- Vishing uses phone calls, often spoofed to show trusted numbers, to manipulate you into revealing personal data for the hackers’ gain.
- QR code phishing embeds malicious links in QR codes swapped through messaging apps or posted in public areas. Scanning them can secretly install malware.
Phishing levels reached new heights in 2023, so remaining skeptical of all requests for your private data is key.
2. Spyware Infections
Spyware is sneaky software enabling hackers to monitor your activities in secret:
- Stalkerware apps infiltrate devices to track communications, location, web history, and other sensitive data – without consent.
- Banking trojans disguise themselves as legitimate apps while stealing your financial login credentials and monitoring banking activity.
- Keylogger spyware logs your keystrokes to uncover passwords, financial data, messages, and other typed information.
- Screen recorder spyware captures screenshots, records video and audio, and accesses camera feeds to spy on activity.
These invasive apps often run undetected in the background, silently gathering your personal information.
3. Wi-Fi Hacking
Public Wi-Fi networks present golden opportunities for hackers:
- Evil twin access points mimic legitimate hotspots but route traffic through hackers’ sniffing tools first.
- Karma attacks turn an innocent user’s device into a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot, with any devices subsequently connecting vulnerable for data interception.
- Hotspot hacking apps like Wi-Fi WPS WPA Tester enable intruders to crack Wi-Fi passwords with ease, especially for routers still using weak WEP or WPA encryption.
Remaining alert to scheming networks (and not automatically connecting to open ones) keeps your data locked down.
4. Charging Station Hackings
Hackers now target public USB power stations to access connected smartphones:
- Juice jacking loads malware onto phones plugged into sketchy charging ports, often in airports, hotels, cafés, and other high-traffic locations.
- O.MG cable looks like a normal Lightning or USB cable but facilitates remote hacking of devices once plugged in.
Carefully inspect charging ports and never use cables with any exposed wiring or chips.
5. Mobile OS Exploits
Even timely software updates can’t eliminate all vulnerabilities:
- Unreported zero-days are software flaws unknown to the vendor, allowing hackers to exploit the holes before patches release.
- Jailbreak/rooting attacks leverage security holes in older OS versions to crack devices for full filesystem access.
Always update your device’s operating system and apps promptly to limit hackable weaknesses.
Staying informed on emerging attack vectors is crucial for keeping your phone secure in our increasingly connected world. Now let’s go over what to do next if your smartphone displays any of the warning signs covered earlier.
Steps to Take If You Suspect Your Phone Is Hacked
First things first: don’t panic! There are steps you can take to determine if your phone has been compromised and prevent further damage.
1. Change All Passwords
If a hacking app is intercepting communications or keystrokes, passwords could be compromised. Rapidly change these using a secure device:
- Email and social media account passwords
- Bank and financial account passwords
- Wi-Fi network and router passwords
- Phone unlock passcode
- Voicemail PIN code
Creating longer, randomized passwords utilizing a password manager enhances security moving forward. Enable two-factor authentication anywhere possible.
2. Scan for Viruses and Malware
Specialized antivirus apps sniff out infections on smartphones:
- Malwarebytes thoroughly scans memory, storage, and system files for suspicious activity.
- AVG Antivirus incorporates real-time monitoring for quick threat detection alongside malicious URL blocking.
- Lookout Security & Antivirus combines intelligent antivirus with added Wi-Fi and phishing protections.
Run full scans using one of these apps to uncover potential villain malware or risky apps endangering your phone and data.
3. Double Check Installed Apps
Carefully examining all downloaded apps can reveal unwanted surprises:
- Open device settings and check app download and notification history for anything suspicious
- Compare all installed apps against your personal app download history
- Inspect app permissions settings for overly intrusive access
- Google any apps you don’t recognize to check for associations with malware
- Search through homescreens, application pages, widgets, and settings menus for unexpected additions
Removing anything abnormal-looking prevents spying software from persisting.
4. Inspect Connected Devices
Snoop through linked gadgets for ones you don’t remember approving:
- On iPhones, visit Bluetooth settings to check for unfamiliar device connections
- For Androids, tap Connected Devices in Settings to view and swiftly unpair suspicious links
Reference recent Wi-Fi connections as well for any you don’t recognize. Terminate unfamiliar associations ASAP to maintain security.
5. Update Software
Hackers exploit software vulnerabilities using unpatched security holes. Download available updates:
- On iPhone, install the latest iOS update via Settings > General > Software Update
- For Android, grab system updates by opening Settings > System > System Update
Additionally, update all apps to their newest versions directly in the Google Play or Apple App Store. Out-of-date software presents easy targets.
6. Turn Off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth When Not in Use
Keep hackers off your network and devices by toggling connectivity off when not needed:
- Disable Wi-Fi via Settings or using the Control Center shortcut
- Switch off Bluetooth in Settings or the Control Center
Reenable quickly when required. Reducing visibility curtails exposure opportunities.
7. Factory Reset Your Device
If scans show extensive infections persist or you still observe suspicious activity, factory resetting your phone reverts it to a clean state:
- For iPhones, a reset erases all content and settings via General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
- On Androids, tap System > Reset Options > Erase All Data (Factory Reset)
Backup essential data beforehand! Resets wipe phones completely clean. Only utilize this step as a last resort if other actions prove unsuccessful.
Ways to secure your device from future attacks
While dealing with a smartphone hack can be unnerving, there are key precautions you can implement moving forward to shield against repeat infiltrations. Enacting these security best practices makes life much harder for potential hackers.
1. Use Encryption
Encrypting data, communications, and storage spaces keeps critical information locked down:
- On iPhone, enable encryption for iCloud backups, stored files, and messages in Settings
- For Android devices, navigate to Security settings to encrypt SD cards plus data backups
Encryption protocols scramble sensitive data, rendering it useless even if somehow intercepted.
2. Install a VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) hides online activity and data on public networks:
- VPNs funnel traffic through an encrypted tunnel to keep web browsing, messaging, and streaming private
- Leading services like NordVPN and ExpressVPN prevent hackers from spying on unsecured Wi-Fi connections
Free VPN options tend to log activity or serve up ads, so premium services provide maximum security.
3. Use Antivirus Software
Continuous active scanning by antivirus software catches malware rapidly:
- Lookout, Malwarebytes, and AVG all provide ongoing monitoring alongside initial scans
- iPhone offers limited antivirus apps due to OS restrictions, making safe browsing and app downloads even more crucial
Set your chosen antivirus solution to continually check phone processes and network traffic.
4. Avoid Public USB Charging Stations
It’s better to be safe than juice jacked. Skip questionable power ports whenever possible:
- Carry an external battery pack for mobile charging to avoid connecting to public stations
- Invest in a charge-only USB cable blocking data transfer while powering up from any port
Limiting use of public USB ports reduces prospects of getting hacked via sneakily modified charging stations installed by criminals.
5. Practice Safe Browsing
Hackers heavily rely on unsafe browsing leading to inadvertent malware downloads:
- Avoid clicking random links, scan all QR codes before capturing, and never download from unverified sources
- Stick to the official Google Play Store and Apple App Store for all app downloads rather than third-parties
- Use secure browsers like DuckDuckGo or Tor Browser for private searches
Cautious browsing starves phishing schemes from tricking you into installing viruses.
6. Set Up Remote Lock and Wipe
Misplacing your device provides alarming access for strangers. Activation locks and remote data deletion reduce this risk:
- Find My Device on Android and Find My iPhone enable locking, locating, and fully wiping phones when missing
- Third-party apps like Prey Anti-Theft also allow remotely locking, tracking, and wiping phones plus sounding an alarm
Losing your phone no longer means losing control – remote protections keep your data safe if devices get lost or stolen.
Strengthening your smartphone’s defenses requires acknowledging elevated hacking perils. But putting these security practices into action makes you an exceptionally hard target. Keep your phone locked down and hack-free with these precautionary measures!
Verify Your Device Identifier: How to Check the MAC Address of Your Phone
Here is a condensed version of that point about checking the MAC address to determine if your phone has been hacked, followed by some additional unique signs of a compromised device:
Phones have a distinctive MAC address visible when networked. Dialing ##232338##*#* and cross-checking this address against your router can reveal spoofing.
Some Other Unique Hacking Signs:
- Frequent password reset requests for accounts you don’t operate
- Friends mention texts/calls from you that you never sent
- Phone frequently hot despite being powered off and idle
- Notifications of remote logins to accounts from unfamiliar locations/devices
- Huge unexplained spikes in mobile data usage each billing cycle
I’ve summarized the MAC address checking tip and added several more unusual signals that your smartphone may be hacked or monitored by malicious actors. Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional suggestions!
Key Takeaway: Is My Phone Hacked?
Dealing with a smartphone hack can be unsettling. Here are the key action items to takeaway from this guide if you suspect your phone has been compromised:
- Watch for unusual activity like glitches, new apps appearing, rapidly draining battery, and phones running hot which indicate hacking.
- Change passwords immediately from a secure device if hacking is confirmed to protect all accounts.
- Run antivirus scans using tools like Malwarebytes to catch viruses and remove suspicious apps.
- Check connected devices in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi settings and remove anything unfamiliar.
- Update software and apps to the latest versions to eliminate vulnerabilities.
- Consider a factory reset to wipe the phone fully if other steps prove ineffective.
- Enable encryption, VPNs, and antivirus apps to shield devices from future attacks.
Staying vigilant about device activity, responding rapidly to anomalies, and solidifying security measures helps safeguard smartphones. Bookmark this guide as a go-to resource if you ever suspect your phone has been hacked. Protecting your gadgets and data from intruders is completely achievable by following these best practices.