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How to tell if your smartphone has been hacked and prevent it from happening

A hacked phone can be a major headache for any business. In this article we explore how to recognise if a device has been hacked, what to do if it happens and how to prevent it in the first place, with recommendations from cybersecurity experts McAfee.

How to tell your phone has been hacked

There are several indicative warning signs that a smartphone may have been hacked:

  • It may be running very slow with performance issues.
  • Your battery might drain fast or fail to charge.
  • Your data usage may have been eaten up unexpectedly.
  • Your device may get hot or even overheat.
  • You may find apps you haven’t downloaded or calls, texts or emails you didn’t make.
  • There might be changes to your home screen or odd bookmarks to dodgy websites.
  • There may be other erratic behaviour such as your device turning on and off.
  • You notice that your email has been hacked, which could originate from a phone hack.

All these are red flags, which may indicate the presence of hacking software on your device. At worst, hackers may be tracking what you can type or tap (“keylogging”) or using “trojan” software to extract important data.


What to do if your phone has been hacked

If you suspect a phone hack, then you need to take immediate action, which includes the following suggestions:

  1. Let employees know a phone has been hacked and to check their own devices
  2. Install and run security software on the device that has been hacked
  3. Delete any suspicious apps, emails or texts
  4. Re-run the security software
  5. If there are still problems, consider wiping and restoring the phone – here you need to ensure data is backed up, and you may need advice from your provider – so proceed carefully
  6. Check accounts for unauthorised purchases and contact Customer Services if you have any queries
  7. Check your email hasn’t been hacked
  8. Change any passwords

Nine ways to prevent your phone getting hacked in the first place

1. Use protection software

Always make sure you install up-to-date online protection software on everyone’s business devices. This can help spot and prevent malware being added. Some businesses only think protection software is for computers and laptops, but it’s designed for phones and tablets too.

2. Update your phone and your apps

Always make sure you have the latest updates to your phone and to any apps installed. These updates should contain the latest fixes for any security vulnerabilities, making it harder for your device to get hacked.

3. Use VPN particularly if relying on public wi-fi

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your device helps you have a private connection to the internet and will help prevent your information being exposed, for example when you’re accessing cloud-based services or using unsecured public wifi.

4. Consider using a password manager

Your phone can get hacked if cybercriminals have access to your password, especially if it is the same as another system and has been leaked from another data breach. When we recently explored four ways to stay safe online, one of our tips was to install a password manager. This useful software automatically generates passwords that are hard to crack and stores them safely so that employees don’t have to remember all of them.

5. Ensure your app downloads are safe

 Downloading dodgy apps is a cause of hacking:

  • Only ever download apps from the iOS appstore or Google Play and avoid third-party sites.
  • Keep an eye out for apps that look suspicious. Tell-tale signs include an app that asks for an immediate update after you’ve downloaded it.
  • If you can, stick to mainstream apps that have been recommended.
  • Check the permissions that have been set on your phone for individual apps – are they providing more access to other apps and services on your device?

6. Encrypt your smartphone and lock your SIM card

Encryption makes your data more secure. While Android devices should have automatic encryption, iPhone users should check via their device if it is switched on. An extra measure is to lock your SIM card so that it requires a passcode if placed in a new device.

7. Block robocalls

Robocalls are scam calls – often from a recorded voice system but they can also involve real people – attempting to defraud you by getting information, often in an intimidating way. Tips to block robocalls include ignoring suspicious and unknown numbers, and never returning calls to these; if it was a genuine message, a person will leave a voicemail. Being aware of the tricks that scammers use and never giving into pressure is also key. There are also apps that can block robocalls that are worth investigating.

8. Ensure your employees are aware

Always make sure employees are aware of how to spot a mobile hack and what they can do to prevent it. Increased awareness will help to keep everyone and your data safe.

For more information about how to keep your business and employees safe, see our cyber security solutions for small and medium businesses.



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