Phone Hacking: What Is It and How to Secure Your Phone
Cell phone hacking statistics show that more than 60% of fraud originates from mobile devices. (RSA Security)
Hackers, con artists, and other bad guys know that your smartphone contains sensitive information and provides access to your most private accounts.
Because phone hacking is so profitable, thousands of businesses have launched to hack phones. The survey found forty-five thousand fraudulent applications in application stores alone in 2020, and 44% of fraud occurrences included mobile applications.
However, hackers may access your phone without creating complex con games. They access your smartphone and all of its data through malicious URLs, smishing (text message phishing), and even dating websites scams.
So how do you find out if your smartphone is secure or not? How do you restore your phone access if you see red flags?
This article discusses:
- Can your phones get hacked?
- How do mobile attacks work?
- Phone hacking stats
- How to know someone hacked your phone?
- How do phones get hacked?
- Tips to secure your phones
Can Your Phone Get Hacked?
Phone hacking is when malicious people, including cybercriminals, hackers, or even dishonest friends, gain unauthorized access to your smartphone or its data.
Thankfully, accessing your financial or personal information through phone hacking is not a piece of cake (especially given how advanced mobile security has become). But regrettably, the payout is still sizable enough to attract scammers to your smartphone.
Hackers know your smartphone is the only access point to your most crucial data and accounts. So, yes, your phone is vulnerable to attacks, and you must learn how these attacks work and how to combat them to stay secure.
How Do Mobile Attacks Work?
When malicious actors hijack your phone, they can run a variety of scams, such as:
- Device hijacking: Sometimes, cybercriminals are merely interested in utilizing your device and aren't seeking to get access to your data. Hackers utilize compromised devices for crypto-jacking (background cryptocurrency mining), ad-spamming, and other cyberattacks.
- Data exposure and leaks: For fraudsters, the information on your phone, such as PINs, passwords, and passcodes, is precious currency. Your data may be sold to other attackers on the Dark Web or used to obtain your identity.
- Accessing personal data for extortion: We frequently store private information or images on our mobile phones. These can be leaked online or used as extortion tools by scammers. (This occurred during CelebGate when prominent celebrities' iCloud accounts were compromised.)
- Stalking and spying: An abusive ex-partner or a domineering relative may put spying malware on your smartphone to monitor you. You risk getting hurt if you fall for these phone hacking scams.
- Breaking into your workplace: Since we utilize our phones for work, hackers may decide to attack you to gain access to the data and networks of your organization. 80% of the time that mobile phone-using remote employees spend outside of their corporate servers is not secure by cybersecurity.
- Financial fraud and identity theft: Your smartphone contains more than enough data to provide thieves access to your banking statements or to compromise your identity. Hackers can deplete your bank accounts if they gain access to your smartphone and use it to commit credit card theft.
Phone Hacking Stats
- 1 in 4 mobile apps has a minimum of one high-risk security flaw.
- Business applications are three times more likely to leak login credentials (corporate and personal data) than the average app.
- 25% of 2M applications on Google Play alone have a security flaw.
- 50% of applications with 5M to 10M downloads contain a security flaw.
- 10 vulnerable applications s installed on a single phone create 10 vulnerabilities tied to that phone.
- A single vulnerable application installed on 1M devices creates 1M points of vulnerability across the user base.
- 35% of communications sent by mobile phones are unencrypted.
- 43% of phone users don't use a password or PIN to lock their phones
- Social media apps are three times more likely to expose users' credentials.
- Every mobile phone connects to 160 unique IP addresses on average every day.
Android is the most targeted mobile platform. (Computer World)
Android phones are highly susceptible to hacking. 82% of Android devices were susceptible to at least one of 25 vulnerabilities in the Android operating system. Android phone security and software updates do not often arrive simultaneously. It indicates that important updates to remedy existing vulnerabilities are frequently missing on older phones. About 100M smartphones infect by malicious programs from the Google Play store meant to steal your money. These numbers are good enough to make you anxious about keeping Android phones over iPhones.
Does that mean iPhone is safe? You must be wondering since I use an Apple phone, I am invulnerable to attacks. Well, you are wrong. Even though Android phones are more vulnerable to attacks, iOS phones can also be compromised. More than 1,200 harmful applications were made accessible in the Apple application store in just 2020, and more than 300M people installed them each month.
How to Know Someone Hacked Your Phone?
Hacking into phones can be a cunning trick. However, there are obvious indicators that your phone is compromised, such as:
- Your phone's battery drains more quickly than usual. One of the initial indications that your smartphone is compromised is a decreased battery life. Background-running malicious applications will use up your battery faster than usual.
- Data usage exceeded expectations. Devices that are compromised frequently consume more data than usual. Examine your device settings to discover which applications are taking up your data if you start getting alerts from your mobile provider about excessive data consumption or if your bill is higher than anticipated.
- Your phone functions slowly and exhibits odd behaviour. Poor performance, device crashes, and strange activity indicate that a phone is infected (for example, applications take a long time to switch or load).
- An unusually heated phone. Malware will exhaust or stress the resources in your smartphone. Cybercriminals may have hacked your device if it feels warm or even hot to the touch.
- Your device is showing new applications. Keep an eye out for unfamiliar or questionable applications on your homepage. Some malicious files will update themselves, assuming you won't care or notice.
- You frequently need to close or leave particular applications. An application could be a victim of a hacking attempt if it launches automatically.
- You get odd pop-up windows and notifications. There are situations when device updates can warn you of hackers. One such instance is the automatic data copying to your clipboard by some rogue applications. However, the latest iOS patch will notify you if an application is "looking at" clipboard information. Don't disregard these warnings.
- Your Google account or Apple ID is locked out. Hackers frequently change your credentials quickly, locking you out of important accounts. A key warning sign that your smartphone gets hacked is if you cannot log into your Apple or Google accounts.
- You get 2-factor authentication codes that you did not ask for, a hint that a hacker has your credentials and is attempting to access one of your accounts is if you begin to get 2FA codes on your smartphone or in your email. Refuse to enter the key and quickly change the account's passcode.
- The indication light for your microphone or camera turns on. Applications for stalking and surveillance will secretly use your camera or microphone. Your indication lights or icons suddenly turning on could indicate that your phone is compromised.
Any of these warning indicators may point to a hacked device. But how did it initially become compromised? We will discuss this in the next section.
How Do Phones Get Hacked?
Your phone can compromise in a variety of ways, some of which are riskier than others. The following are the major phone hacking fraud schemes to avoid:
Phishing attempts happen when con artists send you unwanted emails or use websites that appear to be authentic to get your sensitive details.
The fraud operates as follows:
- A hacker may send you a fraudulent text message or email purporting to be from a reliable source (like Google, Amazon, or Apple).
- The notice will instruct you to "authenticate" your account details by clicking on a link, visiting a website, or downloading an attachment.
- However, each link you click on has the potential to compromise your computer with spyware, and any data you enter on a phishing website shares with the con artists.
Stalking and Spyware Apps
Technically speaking, programmes that let you keep tabs on someone's actions are considered stalker-ware.
Many of these applications promote to parents as a tool to monitor their kids. But one of the critical characteristics of a stalking application is that it stays disguised or hidden as another app. It enables them to use it for evil intentions, such as stalking a coworker or an ex-lover.
Browser Pop-up Scams
Hackers will take advantage of your concern about getting hacked. These scams involve browser pop-ups telling you that your phone has a virus and that you must install an application to "cure" it.
Generally, these applications categorize as "clean up" or "scanning" software. However, they build to spy on you and collect your private data.
Installing Harmful or Corrupt Applications
Hackers will create and distribute free programmes that are harmful software. Users can fall for free games that secretly install flashlight applications or crypto-mining software that capture location data, for instance.
In other instances, con artists may infect or hijack trustworthy software to deceive you into believing it is secure.
These harmful applications commandeer your device's capabilities and may even include your smartphone in a botnet, a network of infected computers used to launch DDoS attacks and other cyberattacks.
Applications Exploiting Permissions
Almost all applications gather information while operating or need permissions to function (for example, Instagram requires access to your microphone and camera to capture videos and photos). Although, some applications want accessibility to irrelevant information or too many rights to trade it online to data brokers (or steal your identity).
Even worse, if hackers compromise these applications, they have access to everything on your device that you have given them permission to see or do.
Verification Code Scams (2FA Scams)
The last line of protection against cybercriminals attempting to access your bank accounts, social media accounts, or phone is frequently 2FA codes. Google reduced the number of compromised accounts by 50% when it automatically enrolled user profiles in two-factor authentication.
If you have 2FA activated on your accounts and crooks already have your login information, they will try to trick you into providing that code.
The 2FA fraud frequently stems from an ongoing deception, such as a romance scam where a person you meet online deceives you into disclosing your 2FA code. Another illustration is a fake account, in which a con artist poses as an IRS agent and requests a code to "check" your identification.
Wi-Fi connections in public places and even homes are famously simple to hack. Any information you provide, especially account passwords and usernames, can be monitored and intercepted by hackers using a technique known as a man-in-the-middle attack (MitM).
Among the most frightening and typical methods by which a hacker might hijack your device is SIM swapping, sometimes called "SIM jacking." Scammers call your cellular service provider claiming to be you in this scheme. They then request that they transfer your mobile number to a new SIM they possess.
Once the switch happens, con artists can receive and send SMS from your number (like a 2FA token, which provides access to your accounts).
Charging Station Hacking (i.e., "Juice Jacking")
Additionally, fraudsters have figured out how to utilize public charging stations like airports to obtain your data or take control of your gadgets. Your device may become infected with malware when you use a hacked charging port, or the charging station may collect your private information.
Tips to Secure Your Phones
Now, since you know how your phone is attacked. Here are some of the best practices to avoid phone hacking:
How to Avoid Phishing Attempts:
First and foremost, never click on links or open attachments in spam emails or communications. Contact the corporation directly if the communication purports to be from the one you are familiar with; calls on the cellphone operate similarly. Never dial the number they give you if someone leaves a message or calls. Contact them again at the business's main line instead.
Look for fraud if you click a link and directions to a website where you require your username and password. It might comprise:
- A domain with a misspelling (such as "Walmart" rather than "Walmart")
- A strange domain (such as "Airbnb-support.com" rather than "Airbnb.com")
- A "non-secure" URL (a secure URL will have a padlock icon in the URL bar and utilize "HTTPS" rather than "HTTP").
How to Avoid Stalking Apps:
To download stalker-ware, an attacker requires physical access to your smartphone. Ensure you know who has access to your phones, and be vigilant for any weird or unfamiliar applications.
How to Stay Away from Shady Browser Pop-up Fraud:
Malicious pop-ups should discount any assertion that your phone has a virus. Websites and ads cannot scan your phone, so they are always frauds.
Also, examine the source of the advertisement or pop-up. You can discover the most harmful pop-ups on less renowned websites or websites that don't pay as much attention to the adverts they run (such as adult websites). However, hackers have started picking on reliable websites to place this advertising. A total of 120 ad servers were hijacked by hackers in 2021, impacting hundreds of millions of websites.
How to Avoid Installing Harmful Applications:
Install software only from authorized applications, such as the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Be wary if someone attempts to convince you to install an application from an external source, especially if it is an application you are familiar with, applications that change owners or developers may be a sign of a possible threat.
You can also look at your data and battery use to see which nagging applications are consuming the most processing capability on your smartphone. Enter your settings and look at your battery and data used to see if any unknown applications are showing up at the top of the charts.
Pro Tip: Use antivirus applications to secure your gadgets. The antivirus application from Aura will search for harmful apps on all of your phones and notify you if you are in danger.
How to Avoid Providing The Application Too Many Permissions:
Any permissions that you should question an application requests of you. Uninstall it if it requests too much information, such as gathering location information, reading your screen, activating your microphone, or activating your camera.
How to Avoid 2FA Code Scams:
Regardless if someone claims they require your assistance to access one of their accounts, never give them your 2-factor authentication codes. It's a scam if someone requests to provide a pin to your device.
How to Avoid Wi-Fi Attacks:
Minimize using public Wi-Fi as much as possible; instead, utilize a mobile data hotspot (harder to hack). Be similarly cautious when using Wi-Fi connections that seem secure, such as those at coffee shops and airports. Malicious hackers are using fake airport Wi-Fi connections to obtain financial details or identities, the FBI has warned.
How to Avoid SIM Swap Attacks:
Your phone carrier might lock your SIM card. You need a Pin number to switch your smartphone to a new SIM. Just be sure that your PIN is challenging to crack (like your address or birthday). Also, Efani provides guaranteed SIM swap protection. Subscribing to Efani is your best bet to prevent SIM swap attacks.
How to Avoid Juice Jacking Scams:
Instead of using chargers that are available to the public since they might be tampered with, bring your own.
Our lives have expanded thanks to our smartphones digitally. We use phones for more than simply communication; they are also used for dating, banking, and other activities. Although missing or breaking your phone could be bad, having it hacked might be even worse.
This article helps you to spot a hacked phone and ways to protect yourself, get rid of the attackers, and stop intrusions in the future. Here is a list of easy tips to secure your phone from hackers or kick-out the hacker from your phone:
- Delete unrecognized applications from your phone.
- Install and run antivirus and anti-malware applications
- Reset your phone to remove any potential malware.
- Modify your passwords every 3 months and use a password manager to secure your passwords.
- Inform your contacts if your phone is breached.
- Unroot your phone
- Contact the service provider to block your SIM.
- Inform the police and cyber crime bureau about the attack.
- Claim insurance for any potential loss.
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