This is the fourth post in our HackNotice Recovery series, detailing the most common threats and how to mitigate your risk. In honor of cybersecurity awareness month, we’re covering a lesser-known but still a highly dangerous cyber threat: mobile hacking.
When most people think about being hacked, they often imagine someone gaining access to their personal or work computer. But, the truth is, any internet-connected device is hackable and can be used as an entry point to all sorts of personal data — from personally identifiable information (PII) to private photos, conversations, and more.
So if you’ve ever been concerned about someone hacking into your mobile phone — you’re not paranoid. Unfortunately, it’s a fast-growing risk.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to fight off mobile hackers.
What is Mobile Phone Hacking?
Mobile phone hacking is the practice of hacking into someone’s mobile device, usually to gain access to private information or for surveillance purposes. It can happen when a cybercriminal steals your physical device or uses mobile hacking software while the phone is in your possession.
Here are a few signs someone has hacked your phone:
- Your phone is sluggish, and the battery dies quickly
Spyware and malware can drain your phone’s processing power. This can lead a formerly fast phone to freeze up, crash, restart unexpectedly, and rapidly lose battery.
- You’ve experienced suspicious activity on your accounts
In many cases, a hacker’s primary goal is to take over your accounts to either siphon valuable data or simply wreak havoc. This includes your bank accounts, email, social media accounts, shopping accounts, and more. They may also set up new accounts in your name. If you notice any strange activity — such as password reset emails, new account verifications, or logins from unusual locations, this may mean someone has hacked your phone (or is at least attempting to do so).
- You see outgoing calls and texts you didn’t send
One particularly eerie sign that you’ve been hacked is discovering outgoing calls you didn’t make and outgoing messages you didn’t compose. In some cases, hackers may pose as you (using your number) to get personal information from your contacts.
How Do Hackers Hack Your Phone?
There are a few ways cybercriminals can break into your mobile device:
Phishing happens when hackers send URLs via email or text messages. If you click on the link, it will infect your phone with a virus or spyware.
- Hacking Software
Hackers can leverage software to access your phone and the treasure trove of data it contains. They can accomplish this by physically accessing your phone and installing the software or tricking you into installing it yourself through phishing and social engineering.
- SS7 System
This is a highly sophisticated technique that leverages the SS7 signaling system to connect phone networks. Because it’s much more complicated (and requires access to the SS7 system — which isn’t easy), it’s rarer than the other methods. But, it’s still a threat worth noting.
- Bluetooth Hacking
Cybercriminals can use special software to hack into your Bluetooth connection if they’re nearby. Usually, hackers use this method in crowded locations, like airports, shopping malls, and busy city centers where people are distracted.
- SIM Card Hacking
This happens when a hacker social engineers their way into getting a replacement SIM card from your service provider, usually by posing as you and claiming the original card was lost. When they activate the new card, they’ll have full access to your calls, messages, and other data while your card will be deactivated.
How to Prevent Mobile Hacking
While mobile phone hacking is becoming more common, you’re not powerless against it. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of becoming a victim:
- Don’t let strangers borrow your phone
It’s much easier for hackers to access your phone if it’s in their possession. That’s why it’s crucial you never let a stranger hold your phone. If someone says they’re in an emergency, offer to place a call for them instead of allowing them to walk away with your device.
- Protect your SIM card with a PIN
Most cellular providers allow you to protect your SIM card with a PIN or password. And all iPhone and Android users should be able to do this from their devices.
- Turn off WIFI and Bluetooth in busy public spaces
When you’re traveling, shopping, or in a crowded location, take a moment to switch off your WIFI and Bluetooth access. You can also toggle your phone to airplane mode or turn it off completely.
- Sign up for actionable threat intelligence
It’s not always possible to tell whether or not someone has hacked into your phone, but actionable threat intelligence will alert you know as soon as possible if your credentials are discovered on the dark web. Additionally, it will let you know whether your phone number was part of a data breach so you can exercise additional vigilance.
What to Do If Someone Hacks Your Phone
If you suspect a hacker has accessed your phone, it’s essential you quickly change passwords to any account that’s accessible from your phone, including all apps, social media networks, email accounts, and more.
Additionally, be sure to contact your bank, credit card companies, and employer to let them know the situation, and give your friends and family a heads up should they receive any suspicious communications from your number. It’s also a good idea to report the crime to the FBI.
With so many types of cybercrime on the rise, it’s critical you understand the various types of threats and how they work and take all possible precautions to protect yourself from becoming a hacker’s next victim.