How To Know About Phone Hacking And Its Prevention

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phone-hacking

Do you think hackers only hack the desktops and laptops? If you still believe in it, you need to upgrade yourself soon! Hackers are smart enough, and they can hack your mobile (smartphones) and tablets as well as irrespective of what Operating System you use. The rate of phone hacking today is unimaginable. A study reveals that hacking has increased by 11% between the years 2018 and 2019. Back in 2017, it has been calculated that in per 39 seconds, hackers conduct a hack. 

Are you worried about your device being hacked? How would you identify if your phone has been hacked? Well, here is the article that describes how you can detect if your phone has been hacked and how you would prevent them further.

How To Know That Your Phone Has Been Compromised?

Some of the common symptoms that might hit you as a red flag will state if the hackers have compromised your smartphone. If one or two signs are detected, it could be not very pleasant. But a series of the symptoms if noticed, can mean a virus infects your phone or that it has been the target of a hacker.

Below are all the symptoms that prove that your phone is hacked. You can cross-check with the symptoms, and if found hacked, you can take preventive measures accordingly.

    • Your Device Is Heating Up Or Slowing Down Unnecessarily Along With Battery Getting Drained Faster

If your phone is getting slowed down or heating up faster or consuming more battery power, then there could be several reasons for it. It is a matter to worry about if you have not updated your OS for the longest time and you are not running any apps that are resource-intensive. This could be a red flag which could point out that there is malware running in the background caused by phone hacking. There is a strong possibility that the threat actors are mining cryptocurrencies, and the process is resource-intensive.

It is necessary for you to check the running apps that run in the background, how much memory they have occupied and how much free space is still left out on your device. If there is no reason you can find to justify the occurrence, then your phone has already been infected.

    • Your Contacts Complaint Of Messages You Are Unaware Of

In case your phone has been hacked, and malware installed, in the process of spreading itself, the malware may use your phone’s instant messaging services, and email and spread itself to the contact list. Using these apps and softwares, the malware typically sends messages to your contacts in your name, and each message contains a link or a file that is meant to infect other devices. If you receive a complaint of people getting messages and you do not have a track of that, then you must look into it with no delay.

    • You Detect Sudden Hike In Phone Bill Or Data Usage

If you have been hit by an unexpected increase in the phone bill or the data usage, it could be said that the hackers are trying to mine cryptocurrencies or stealing your photos. This is also a sign that the hackers are continuously spying on you after they have gotten themselves into phone hacking. For the case of the rise in the phone bill and that you have not conducted those calls from your cell phone, it means that the hackers have compromised your phone and they are using your phone as a proxy. 

Additionally, you can also check upon the interference when you are on a call or strange background noises. This states that there is a weak reception or maybe your call is being tapped, and someone is prying on you by recording your calls.

    • You Come Across A Newly Installed App Or Antivirus Software Getting Uninstalled You Are Unaware Of

If you find that a new app has been installed in your phone that you have not done, it would mean that someone (also probably a hacker) might have installed spyware to keep track of what you do on your phone. If the installed antivirus of your phone gets uninstalled without you knowing about it, then you can take it as a virus getting into your phone through phone hacking and protecting itself by uninstalling the software. 

    • Your Phone Settings Got Altered Mysteriously

If you find that your phone settings got altered without you knowing about it, then probably the hacker is manipulating your phone’s settings. You could spot your phone’s Bluetooth stays turned on, which means that the installed malware is using your Bluetooth to infect other devices or transmitting data and has conducted mobile hacking

    • Your Phone Acts Bizarrely, Gets Rebooted or Does Not Shut Down At All

If your phone is not really acting the way it should have been, or it gets restarted without any warning or if it does not shut down at all, then you can take it as a software error. Alternatively, it could also mean that a hacker or a virus is remotely accessing your phone.

    • Your Credit Card Lists Out Transactions That You Did Not Make

This states that you might have undergone some form of credit card fraud. The malware that might have been installed in your phone can collect details of your saved credit cards. If this is such a case, make sure to check with your bank once. 

How To Remove A Hacker From Your Phone?

The only way to remove hacker from your smartphone is to undergo a factory reset and install an updated operating system (OS) from the service provider. If your phone has been hacked and you could be sure of that, your first step would be to go to your phone settings and then into the security.

Next, go inside the “Security” visit “System Administrator” or “Device Administrator”, which is the primary location of the majority of the spyware apps that gain access to your mobile device. Thus, you need first to check there to address the problem adequately. 

Another approach to this is by downloading specific apps that are capable of providing you with a list of applications present on your phone and all the related details such as type of application, their function and their source of download. 

How To Know Who Has Hacked Your Phone

For an average user, it isn’t easy to find out who has hacked his phone. But it is not impossible. You typically let the hackers enter your Android phone or iOS devices when you have permitted installing the unofficial apps on your device. But as far as the regular hackers or cybercriminals are concerned, they might have hacked you as you proved to be an easy target. 

On saying this if you find an official app, say from Google Play Store or Apple Store, meant for spying installed on the phone, be rest assured that someone has physically accessed your phone and installed the application. This could be someone who might regularly access your phone or someone who knows your password. But in this case, it would be relatively hard to tell who broke in as they would not do anything logging into their accounts. Thus, you would need to protect yourself against hackers.

Phone Hacking Is Made Simpler In 12 Different Ways

There are not one but twelve various ways in which your phone can get hacked and that the hackers could be spying on you. Here are all the twelve ways that you need to know about phone hacking and how to prevent them.

1. The Spy Apps

There are a huge number of phone monitoring apps that are made to track someone’s location secretly and snoop on their communication. These are generally employed by the employers to keep a track of the employees or the curious mothers who want to monitor their kids’ activities online. These apps are used remotely to view the emails, text messages, photos, browsing history, phone call logs and GPS location. Some spying apps may also hack the phone’s mic for recording conversations that had been made in person. In a nutshell, a hacker could do anything that he would possibly want to do with your phone. 

Prevention

  • Putting a passcode to your phone would greatly reduce the chances of someone else accessing your phone and installing spy apps. You must also pick a code that the other will have a tough time guessing.
  • Keep a track of your apps list to find out any apps you do not recognize. 
  • Do not jailbreak your iPhone.
  • Despite what OS your phone is, make sure to download and install a mobile security app and keep updating the app from time to time. 

2. Phishing Messages

The SMS texts often contain deceptive links aiming to scrape out the sensitive data which is usually known by the terms “phishing” or “smshing”. The people who check their email apps all throughout the day, are one of the favourite targets of the email-hacking. Specific times of a year lead to the spike of phishing messages like the tax season.

Prevention

  • It is important to know how you usually verify your identity with the accounts of different types. Take for example your banks, they will never ask you to send them your full password and/or PIN. 
  • You must check with the phishing section of the IRS for familiarizing yourself with the way tax agencies communicate with people. You must verify any communication that you may receive.
  • You must stay away from unknown numbers sending you links. If you cannot see the full URL, never click on them. If you doubt any of your friends might have sent you something, clarify it at first.
  • If by mistake you have clicked on the link and tried to download any unofficial app, your phone must have notified you. If you have somehow ignored the warning or bypassed the security of your cell phone OS, immediately delete the app and run a security scan.

3. Unauthorized Access To Google or iCloud Accounts

The breached Google and iCloud accounts offer access to lucrative information that has been backed up from your phone such as phone books, photos, current location, call logs, messages. Considering the case of the iCloud Keychain, it could be the saved passwords to the browsers, email accounts and other apps. 

Prevention

  • Always create a strong password preferably a combination of symbols, alphabets and numeric for all major accounts.
  • You must enable login notifications so that you are updated of any sign-ins that are occurring from a new device or a new computer or location. 
  • Enable the two-factor authentication so that if the hackers have your password, they will not be able to access your accounts without the physical access of your phone. 
  • In order to prevent someone from resetting your password, set up password security questions and enter a lie. Some of the security questions that you set up have answers known to your friends and family.

4. Hacked Bluetooth

All wireless connections might be vulnerable to the cybersecurity loopholes. A vulnerability had been reported earlier where the hackers would secretly connect over Bluetooth after which they would scrape the data on the compromised device. The hackers are smart enough to hack your Bluetooth connection using other vulnerabilities or they may trick you into pairing your device with their device by giving it some name that people would generally not doubt like “Airpods”. As soon as your cell phone is connected to their device, voila! You become a victim of phone hacking.

Prevention

  • You must turn on your Bluetooth only when required. 
  • Do not connect your phone to malicious pairing requests.
  • Do not pair your device in the public.
  • Always make sure you have downloaded and installed security update patches as soon as they are released.

5. Sim Swapping

Sim swapping has been another biggest focus that must make you strict on what you post online. The cybercriminals call up cellular carriers to pose as the legit customers whose accounts have been locked. On providing the stolen personal information, they are able to get the phone number and port them to their own device to use it to take over the victim’s online accounts. The purpose of this is probably for holding the victims for ransom or may be to sell data on the underground marketplaces of darknet markets. This may also potentially lead the other financial accounts like the crypto wallets to get hacked. 

Prevention

  • It is recommended not to use any guessable number for setting up your carrier PIN – like the regular 12345 or any of your personal dates and events. 
  • You must opt for an authenticator app like Google Authenticator or Authy instead of your regular SMS for 2FA.
  • You should also use multi-factor authentication and strong passwords for all your online accounts.

6. Breached Phone Camera

Video calling has become an integral part in our life these days and with the pandemic, it has been widely relied upon. Computer webcam hacking is pretty prevalent but this does not discard the risks a mobile phone camera may possess. The front facing camera may allow the hackers to record a video, gather photos, acquire geolocation data of the images. The malevolent apps having the access to your camera app may also permit the criminals to hijack your phone cam. 

Prevention

  • Make sure your mobile OS is up-to-date and all the apps are updated (security updates) from time to time.

7. Apps Over-requesting Permissions

Many applications do over-request permissions for data harvesting while some of the similar type may be more malicious. If such apps are downloaded from the non-official source, they ask for intrusive access to nearly anything from your camera roll to your location. Some of the free VPNs are also one of the culprits that over-requests permissions.

Prevention

  • Make yourself knowledgeable about the app permissions prior to downloading them and avoid such apps that may request more access than what they would ideally need. 
  • If you find an app’s permissions to line up with its functions, consider a second thought of checking its online reviews. 
  • If you are an user of Android OS, it is recommended that you install an antivirus app, which will scan all the apps in your smartphone and the ones you are about to download. It will also flag the suspicious activities on the apps. 

8. Open Wi-Fi Network Snooping

The password-free public Wi-Fi network is just not the best place to get online. The Eavesdroppers rely on the unsecured Wi-Fi network to monitor all of its unencrypted traffic. The public hotspots can redirect you to the lookalike email or banking sites that are carefully curated to capture your passwords and usernames. 

Prevention

  • It is a best practice to use public Wi-Fi networks having a secured password and a WPA2/3 enabled. This encrypts the traffic while transmitting by default. You can be sure of this on the login screen that requests the password. 
  • Use a trustworthy VPN app like PureVPN that offers multi-device protection.
  • If you have to enter a public network that does not have a secured password, it is recommended that you do not enter your login details for banks, emails and other financial platforms. Also, make sure that the URL in the address bar is correct and has an HTTPS with a green lock icon beside the URL.

9. Weak Encrypted Apps

The apps that are not malicious usually, can make your phone vulnerable. The applications installed on your phone having weak encryption algorithms have immense chances of leaking your data to someone who is in search of it. 

Prevention 

  • Before downloading any apps, you should check the reviews of the particular apps online. By this it is meant not only in the app store but on the other blogs and communities as well. 
  • Never download any apps from any untrusted site. Always stick to official sites such as Google Play Store and iOS Store.

10. Global Phone Network Vulnerability (SS7)

The Signaling System No 7 (SS7), a communication protocol for the global mobile networks, possesses a vulnerability that allows the hackers to spy on the phone calls, text messages and locations if they have someone’s cell phone number. This enables the hackers to get past the 2FA or two-factor authentication codes that are sent from banks via the SMS. This method is capable of hacking other online accounts as well such as social media, email hacking causing financial and personal loss. 

Prevention

  • For the receipt of the 2FA codes, it is better to choose email over SMS and that too the email must be in an encrypted platform such as secMail or Protonmail.
  • If you are using message services, shift to end-to-end messaging services such as Signal and Wicker Me.

11. Malignant Charging Stations

People who travel a lot tend to use the public charging stations installed in airports and hotels. The hackers are benefited by the fact that the standard USB cables offer both charging and data transfer. The security researchers have proven that it is possible to breach the video out feature on the cell phones when a phone is plugged to a charger. The hacker can monitor everything including sensitive data and passwords. This is termed as “Juice Jacking”.

Prevention

  • It is better to carry a wall charger with you whenever you are in public. Make sure that the USB charger solely offers charging and not transfer of data.
  • If you are charging your phone on a public computer, choose the “Charge Only” option over others. If you are using an iPhone and a pop-up is flashed when you connect your phone to the charger, just deny the access from the other computers.

 12. Fake Cellphone Towers

Some of the government bodies such as the IRS, FBI, DEA, ICE, the U.S. National Guard, Navy and Army use cellular surveillance devices like the StingRays that mimic the other reputed network towers. These surveillance devices force the nearby cell phones to drop their actual network tower and get connected to the StingRay. This allows the device operators to monitor texts and calls that are made by the cell phone owners, their movement and the total number of people they are connected to. StingRays have a radius of 1 kilometres and thus within this spectrum tens of thousands of phones can be tapped. 

Prevention

  • Use encrypted voice call and messaging apps such as Signal and Wickr Me. These apps help you keep away from interception and interference. Both of these are available for Android and iOS.

How Will You Prevent Phone Hacking?

There are specific vital pointers that you need to keep in mind, which will help you from getting hacked:

  • Avoid public Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Stick to the official apps or from the official source
  • Do not download any suspicious attachments or access any suspicious links
  • Install updated antivirus software and make sure to update whenever a prompt is flashed
  • Charge your phone only using a secure charger
  • Lock your phone using a secure pin 
  • Never leave your phone unattended
  • Use a premium VPN

While using a VPN, make sure it is not free and not malware-infected. Renew your VPN when it expires. This will ensure you are safe and secure.


Disclaimer: Read the complete disclaimer here.

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