Smartphones are valuable tools that bring the world to your fingertips. You can do just about anything from your smartphone device including research, shopping, email, and managing your finances. With over 310 million smartphone users in the United States and over 6 billion smartphone users in the world today, it's important to protect your devices and data from thieves who use these same devices with malicious intent. To help, we're sharing common types of smartphone hacks, signs your phone may have been hacked, and how to secure your phone from hacks.
Your smartphone holds some of your most sensitive personal information — passwords, account numbers, emails, text messages, and more. Cybercriminals deploy a number of tactics to hack into phones and unleash viruses and other malware to gain access to your device. Here are some common types of smartphone hacks:
Apps can come with malicious software or malware attached. These apps often seem useful or entertaining on the surface but are designed to monitor your phone use and hijack your personal data.
Fake Wi-Fi Networks
Using public Wi-Fi networks isn't always safe. In addition, hackers can mimic legitimate networks to redirect you through their computer or smartphone. From there, they can view your activity and steal your data.
A text, email, or message urging you to claim a prize or check tracking for something you didn't order is likely a phishing scam. These messages will typically try to lure you to a phony website containing harmful downloads or where you'll be prompted to enter sensitive information.
SIM Swapping occurs when a fraudster pretends to be you and calls your cell service provider to request they activate a new SIM card for a phone that they own. If the fraudster is successful, they will receive all of your calls, messages, and data on their phone.
While methods of hacking may differ, there are a few giveaways that could indicate that your phone has been compromised:
- Your phone doesn't hold a charge or loses battery quickly
- The apps on your phone take longer to load
- Your phone runs much slower than normal
- You receive an excessive amount of pop-ups
- Apps that you did not download appear
- There is an occurence of unexplained data usage
- You receive a higher phone bill than you normally would
Securing your smartphone from hackers starts with keeping your device with you at all times. You should also make it a point to:
Lock Your Phone.
While it may seem like an inconvenience, setting your phone to lock when you're not using it can save you a ton of worry if your device is ever lost or stolen. You should use at least a 6-digit passcode to lock your phone. Your device may also allow you to lock and unlock your phone with your fingerprint, retina, or face.
Update Your Operating System (OS) and Apps.Updates to your OS often include critical software and patches that protect against security threats. To make certain your device's operating system stays up-to-date, set your phone to update automatically. Along with keeping your OS updated, you should also make sure your apps are updated.
Be Selective With Apps You Download and Use.
There are millions of apps to choose from on Google Play and the App Store, but not all apps are created equally. Having an overabundance of apps installed on your device not only eats up storage and drains your battery, it also broadens the number of entities who have access to your data whether legally or illegally. Before you download any app on your phone:
- Find out if the information the app requests access to seems relevant to its purpose
- Research online, check reviews, and don't use apps with a lot of negative comments from users
Use Caution When Connecting to Public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi may seem convenient, but it isn't always secure. Cybercriminals can victimize unsuspecting users with a fake Wi-Fi network or by employing what is referred to as a man-in-the-middle attack (MITM). A MITM attack occurs when a perpetrator positions themselves in the middle of two parties — the user and an application — to intercept communications and data to use for malicious purposes like hacking or making unauthorized purchases. It is best to avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks altogether, but if you must, use a reputable VPN service and avoid online shopping, mobile banking, and other activities that could expose your personal information.
Back Up Your Data.
Make it common practice to back up your phone to your computer or your cloud service. This will help ensure you'll still have access to your personal information if your device is lost or stolen.
Know How to Find Your Device.
Mobile operating systems have a program to help you find your phone, lock it, or erase data on your phone if it's lost or stolen. You should enable this feature in your device settings and familiarize yourself with how it works on your Android or iPhone.
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