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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How To Tell If Your Smartphone Has Been Hacked

There are many horrible things that can happen with your smartphone, but there's nothing worse than having a cyber crook break in and get access to your personal data. Both Apple and Android do a very good job of making sure your gadgets are protected from criminals, but they are always looking for new ways to get access to your passwords, photos, documents, and anything else they can use to make a profit. If you want to make sure your smartphone is protected from hackers, check out these easy tips that will give you peace of mind when it comes to the safety of your phone.

99% of the time, when it comes to your smartphone, you are responsible for it getting hacked. Cybercrooks use social engineering tactics such as phishing text, email, and voice scams that trick you into installing a malicious app or visiting a dangerous website. Social engineering involves crooks posing as trusting companies or friends to get you to click on a link to download a program that will grant them access to your phone. Your smartphone can be physically hacked if someone figures out your password or uses your face while you are asleep to bypass facial recognition to get access. Your smartphone's information can wind up in the hands of criminals if they gain access to your Apple account or your Google Account. Finally, crooks can use SIM swapping to hack your phone. This works when a criminal calls your phone carrier pretends to be you, and requests a new SIM card. This process will disconnect your old line and transfer everything to the criminal’s device.

What are the warning signs? If you think your smartphone has been hacked, check out the following warning signs:

Your phone is running hot. If a criminal has installed stalkerware, mining, or malware apps on your phone, it could decrease the performance of your phone.

Strange apps appear on your phone. If you find new apps on your phone that you didn't install, it could be a sign a criminal has access to your phone.

You stop receiving calls. If you find you can't send or receive calls on your smartphone. Criminals may have performed a sim card swap on your phone.

What to do to prevent your smartphone from being hacked? While there are multiple ways a hacker can get access to your phone to steal your data, a little effort on your part can make a big difference as far as keeping your smartphone safe from criminals. Here are a few tips to prevent crooks from getting into your phone.

Keep your phone updated with the latest security fixes and patches. Whenever there is an update available for your device, download it immediately. Criminals count on you to let your phone fall behind on updates.

Enable two-factor authentication on all of your online accounts. Two-factor or two-step authentications keep your online accounts safe by requiring two steps to your account login process. The first step is entering your password. The second step is confirming your identity by responding to an email or text. If a criminal gets your password, they still have to confirm they have the authorization to log into your account.

Use a VPN when you're traveling. Your phone's cellular data connection is the most secure connection to use when you're on the road, but strong service isn't always available which is why you would connected to WiFi. A VPN stands for virtual private network and this technology creates a secure tunnel to prevent crooks from accessing your data when using public Wi-Fi, such as at airports, hotels, and even libraries. These networks are public, meaning that your activities are exposed to others on the network—your banking, your password usage, all of it.

Turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you're not using them. Think of it as closing an otherwise open door. There are several attacks that a dedicated and well-equipped hacker can make on devices where the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are open and discoverable. Likewise, while not a hack, some retailers will track your location in a store using Bluetooth technology for marketing purposes—so switching it off can protect your privacy in some situations as well. You can easily turn off both from your settings and many phones let you do it from a pulldown menu on your home screen as well.

Encrypt your phone with a password. Encrypting your smartphone can save you from being hacked and can protect your calls, messages, and critical information. To check if your iPhone is encrypted can go into Touch ID & Passcode, scroll to the bottom, and see if data protection is enabled. Android users have automatic encryption depending on the type of phone.

Always keep your eyes on your phone. Preventing the theft of your phone is important too, as some hacks happen simply because your phone falls into the wrong hands. This is a good case for turning on 'Find My Device' so that you can locate your phone or even wipe it remotely. Both Apple and Android provide remote wiping for their devices.

Lock your SIM card. Just as you can lock your phone, you can also lock the SIM card that is used to identify you as the owner of your phone and to connect you to your cellular network. Locking it keeps criminals from using your SIM card and gaining access to your data.

Beware of strange apps. Google Play and Apple’s App Store have measures in place to review apps to make sure they are safe and secure. Cybercriminals have found ways to work around Google and Apple’s review process, so make sure you check out the reviews for any app before you download it.

If you don't want to go through the process of the above steps, wiping and restoring your phone back to factory defaults is the quickest way to ensure the removal of malicious apps and settings that could compromise your phone. Before you do this, make sure you have backed up your photos, contacts, and other vital info backed up in the cloud. Finally, always check your mobile provider accounts to see if any unauthorized purchases have been made. If you see any, freeze your accounts and work through the process of getting new cards and credentials issued.

I hope you can use these tips to help keep your smartphone from being hacked. If you need further assistance, please reach out to me with any questions you might have. I am always happy to help!

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