Hackers are increasingly targeting smartphones for several reasons. The most prominent of them is for personal data. But savvy hackers are now looking beyond this as we usher into a new financial world order. Cryptojacking is where hackers use the computing power of a phone to mine cryptocurrency.
As their techniques become more sophisticated, how do you know when your phone is hacked?
Data thefts, credit card frauds or illegal crypto mining — these are some of the many examples of what could happen if your phone is hacked. That is why your smartphone is way more valuable than you know, or even care to admit. The only problem is how to find out what’s happening behind the scenes, or screen, and stop it before damage is done.
It is common for mobiles to get hot when they are charging or when you are playing graphics-intensive games. Low-end smartphones also get hot when you watch videos for too long. But, if your phone is overheating for no apparent reason, when it is not in use, that’s a red flag.
You need to find that one app or process, or more, which is running in the background without your permission. Open Settings and go to Manage Apps. If an app or service is running, you will see a green dotted circle.
Advanced users can enable Developer Option (tap Android build number 10 times) and check Running Services.
2. Battery Drainage
If you notice that the battery is draining faster than usual, then specific unwanted processes are running in the background. Open Settings and go to Battery & performance. Select Power usage here.
Check which app is consuming battery and whether you remember using it recently. Also, examine App battery saver option to see which apps are active now.
You can restrict background activity of any app by opening it and selecting Restrict background activity option.
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3. Unwanted App Installs
Some apps installed from unreliable sources can keep bugging you to install another Cleaner or Free up Ram app. Sneaky ones install a malware-loaded one without your permission. If you don’t remember installing that suspicious-looking app, then the chances are you didn’t. It is usually a good idea to read user reviews before installing any app and only use the Play Store to download.
Sometimes, even popular apps are not safe, which does make due diligence even more important.
4. Data Usage
People don’t pay attention to their data usage when on a Wi-Fi connection, but they should. Unexplained Internet data usage is a clear sign of your phone’s data being uploaded to a suspicious website, which could be a hacker’s server. Open Settings and tap on Data usage.
You will see a list of all the apps that have used the Internet. You can toggle between Mobile and Wi-Fi usage here.
If you notice an unusual spike in data usage, see an app you don’t remember using or think shouldn’t be using the Internet in the first place, get rid of it.
5. Pop-Up Ads
Some developers like to show pop-up ads thinking nobody will notice. Anyways, if you notice random pop-up ads on your phone, you need to find and get rid of that app quickly. Those apps are secretly stealing your data and selling it to the advertisers. If you see ads on your lock screen instead, follow our guide to remove lock screen ads.
6. Slow Phone
Though smartphones come with a lot of silicon-brawn under the hood these days, you may still experience a sluggish phone or frequent app crashes. There can be many reasons behind that, including the ones I shared above.
Malware could be consuming system resources or causing conflicts with the way other apps function, resulting in a slow phone, app crash or unexplained reboots. I would suggest you get rid of any apps that you don’t need or no longer use. We can be careless when installing apps. Install an antivirus app and download Malwarebytes and perform a complete scan.
Do you remember sending that odd-looking text message or making that call to a foreign number? Are you experiencing call drops or network failure for no apparent reason? SIM swapping is a common tactic used by hackers.
If you think that your SIM or number has been compromised, visit your operator and place a request to stop all services immediately. The operator should reissue a new SIM to you after proper investigation.
8. Phishing Calls, SMS
Phishing calls is a technique where the fraudster will call you, often with a sense of urgency, and try to obtain sensitive information from you. Mostly they will ask for bank account details (to unblock your card), social security numbers, passwords or data. Later that information can be used to gain access to your accounts, and then your digital life.
Never share passwords or other sensitive information with anyone on the call, via SMS, or even messaging platforms like WhatsApp. A majority of Android phone users have a Google account set by default. That’s why these methods can be used to gain access to your phone remotely and to disable critical services.
9. Unexplained Play Store Charges
Well, you can’t always blame the kids for raking up your credit card bills. Sometimes, malware or spyware apps are also responsible. These apps will ask for permission to access data stored on your phone.
If you don’t remember buying apps or making in-app purchases, or find irregularities in bills, it is possible that your phone has been hacked. The hacker have access to your credit card or Play Store details. Change the password immediately and call your bank to stop authorizing any further transactions.
The list above is not an absolute one. It is merely an indicative checklist to help you identify if something odd is going on with your phone. Most likely, you will be able to discover an app or malware acting under the hood.
Some due diligence can go a long way in protecting your phone from getting hacked. Always stick the basics of security and privacy. Don’t open links in emails or messages from random or unknown people. Change passwords every few months. Read reviews before downloading apps. Use 2FA apps to secure important accounts. Avoid logging on to public Wi-Fi networks. Use a reliable VPN whenever necessary. That should cover you most of the times.
Next up: Preparing to sell your Android phone? Learn how to wipe your phone securely before selling it.