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How to tell if your phone is hacked

In our modern connected world, a hacked phone is a big problem for anyone to find themselves with. Get ahead of the hackers by reading our guide on what to look out for. 

While you’ll want to insure your phone with specialist insurance, what else can you do to shield yourself from such criminals? And what should you be on the lookout for when choosing phone insurance? Let the team at Gadget Cover help.

Hacking 101 - common tricks to watch out for

Unfortunately, there are a wide range of tactics used by phone hackers to get access to your device. Here are just some of the most common you might come across.

Breaking weak passwords

The National Cyber Security Centre has warned UK phone owners that choosing a weak password is leaving them open to hackers. An analysis of the most commonly re-occurring passwords found worrying trends in those accounts accessed by hackers. For example:

  • The most hacked password in total was, unsurprisingly, 123456 followed by 123456789, qwerty, password and 11111111.
  • The most hacked names were Ashley, Michael, Daniel, Jessica and Charlie.
  • The most hacked Premier League football team names were Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Man Utd and Everton.
  • The most hacked fictional character names were Superman, Naruto, Tigger, Pokemon and Batman.

Sending phishing messages and dodgy links

Whether through a direct text, Facebook or email message, many of us will have received a malicious link or dangerous attachment from criminals at one time or another. Phishing often targets us when we are at our most unwary.

It only takes a moment for malware to be installed and our sensitive data to be snatched. But it can take a long time to recover from such an attack.

Creating dodgy apps or targeting weak ones

When downloading apps to our phones, it’s always best to stick to trusted sites such as Google Play Store or the App Store.

Even if the app itself is not malicious, if it has weak encryption then hackers may use it to get access to your phone.

Installing tracking apps and spyware

Spyware and tracking apps are very useful for worried parents who want to keep an eye on their children online. However, they can be used by anyone to collect your data, track your location and even listen in on your conversations.

That said, anyone installing such an app will need direct access to your phone. Another reason why you should never leave your phone unattended in a public place.

Accessing unsecured public Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth

Logging on to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network or leaving your bluetooth on are both relatively easy ways to leave your phone vulnerable to hackers.

SIM swapping

Using stolen personal information, hackers can transfer your phone number to their own SIM card or device. They can then take over any accounts linked to that number.

Even if you don’t get hacked, insure your phone to prevent mishaps when you’re out and about. Insuring your device through Gadget Cover means you’ll be protected against a wide variety of risks.

How to tell if your phone is hacked

unknown caller calling phone

At one time or another we’ve all wondered whether our precious phone has been tampered with. Insure your phone and keep an eye out for any of these unusual signs. If you’re experiencing one or more of these, then chances are you’ve been hacked.

Strange or inappropriate pop-ups

Pop-up ads can be a pain at the best of times. But if they’re becoming non-stop, intrusive or even inappropriate, then your phone may have been compromised by an adware infection.

Clicking on them to find out what happens is not a good idea, the issue will get a lot worse! To reduce the number of pop-ups you get, be sure to disable the option to receive notifications from apps.

Adware is often used by hackers to fool you into viewing specific web pages in order to drive their revenue through clicks. They might also try to trick you into providing them with personal information or downloading yet more malware to sort out the problem.

Calls or texts you don’t remember sending

If you find your phone is making outgoing calls or texts without your permission, then it could be evidence of hacking. Indeed, some malware fools your phone into contacting premium-rate numbers. And hitting you with a big phone bill!

Apps you don’t recognise

Take a look in your downloaded apps list. If you notice new apps popping up there without your say so, then there may be malware involved.

Keep in mind that new phones often come with pre-downloaded apps you might not be aware of. And manufacturers may update software including new apps to your phone. Not every new thing is evidence of hacking.

Changes to your home screen

There’s a lot you can do to customise your home screen, particularly if your phone runs on Android. However, if you see changes to your home screen that you didn’t personally make, this is another big clue your phone has been hacked.

Very slow or other performance issues

As handsets get older, they can find it harder to keep pace with all the latest technological changes. But if you notice your phone operating significantly slower or it keeps crashing, glitching or freezing then it might not always be down to age.

Malicious apps or other software may be operating in the background, draining resources and battery power and reducing performance significantly. Go through your apps list and delete any suspicious ones.

Unexplained battery drains and problems charging

As well as a drop in performance, older phones may also experience worsening battery life and difficulties charging. These are amazing machines but that doesn’t mean they’ll go on forever!

However, it might mean malware on your phone is draining your battery. After all, software that’s constantly scanning your device and transmitting the information back to its creator will use a lot of power.

Phone overheating

When you’re streaming or gaming for a long time you may well notice your phone getting hotter. This is to be expected.

However, if this seems to be happening at other times then there could well be something unpleasant lurking in your phone. A hacker may be transferring large amounts of sensitive data or could even be using your phone to mine for cryptocurrency!

If you’re worried about an overheating phone then read our Gadget Cover guide to the causes of overheating, how to prevent it and what to do if it happens to you.

Erratic browsing experience

Encountering odd-looking websites or being redirected to other sites by your browser might mean it’s time to secure your personal data. 

Mysterious and unexpected data usage

Unless you have an unlimited data plan, you’ll probably already be keeping a close eye on your data usage each month to avoid any unexpected charges. But it’s also a good way to keep your phone security under close observation.

Be on the lookout for any unexplained spikes in data usage without any changes to your online habits. Malware or another nasty application might be draining your data allowance in the background as it records your activity and connects with its creator.

Unusual account activity

With our phones used for everything from social media and fitness to banking and email, if a hacker gains access to your phone they could do a lot of damage. Spotting unusual activity in your accounts is a key sign that someone somewhere is taking advantage of a vulnerability in your security setup.

If you notice passwords being reset, emails being sent or read without your knowledge or mysterious new account sign-ups, then an identity fraudster might have targeted you. If you don’t act soon to change passwords and shore up your security then who knows how far they could go?

Once one account has been compromised then other linked accounts will soon follow. For example, if someone manages to get into your primary email account then they’ll soon be able to hack all those accounts that the email is linked to. From your SnapChat account to your online bank account, your personal life and credit rating could be under threat.

Even if your phone itself hasn’t been hacked, gaining access to your iCloud or Google account means they will be able to get hold of a vast amount of information backed up from your phone. From personal photos, videos and messages to contacts, call logs and even saved passwords, they’ll be capable of doing untold harm.

As well as identity theft, online criminals have developed a particularly nasty method of extracting money from victims. Digital hostage taking is where cyber criminals steal precious photos and other data and force victims to pay a hefty ransom to get them back.

Tell-tale camera issues

Phone cameras have become a popular target for hackers, particularly with the increasing popularity of video calling amongst phone users.

Signs that someone else is using the camera remotely include the appearance of photos and videos in your gallery you don’t remember taking and the flash lighting up when you’re not using your phone.

10 easy steps to stop your phone from being hacked

Step 1: Install security software

Always make sure you install up-to-date anti-virus software to help spot and prevent malware being added to your phone.

Step 2: Update your phone OS and your apps

Okay, it is a bit of a hassle. But ensuring you have the latest OS and app updates installed will mean you’ll have the latest fixes for any security vulnerabilities. In addition, updates will also help your phone run smoothly while also introducing new, helpful features.

Step 3: Use a VPN

If you use public Wi-Fi then you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your device to keep your connection private and stop your sensitive information being stolen. If you’re now asking ‘what is a VPN?’  and ‘who are the best VPN providers in the UK?’ then read our recent guide.

Step 4: Avoid charging your phone in public

When your phone runs out of power far from home, a public charging port can seem very welcome indeed. But be careful, a hacker may have installed malware in the charging port. You’re much better off keeping a portable power bank close at hand.

Step 5: Turn off Wi-Fi and bluetooth when not in use

Open and discoverable Wi-Fi and bluetooth connections are a tempting invitation to a knowledgeable and determined hacker. 

Step 6: Use a password manager

Rather than using one password for all your accounts, try a secure password manager that creates and stores passwords for all of them.

Step 7: Only download apps from the App Store or Google Play

Avoiding dodgy third-party sites is recommended if you don’t want your device to catch something unpleasant.

Step 8: Encrypt your smartphone and lock your SIM card

Depending on the type of phone you have, Android devices usually feature automatic encryption. If you have an iPhone then you’ll need to check if data protection is enabled.

Another good idea is to lock your SIM card. It’s quite simple to do and could save you a headache later on.

Step 9: Get clued up on common scams and hacking tricks

Criminals are constantly evolving the methods they use to gain access to your phone and data. Staying aware of the latest developments in cyber crime will help keep you and your data safe.

Step 10: Keep your phone safe

One of the most important ways to keep your phone safe from hackers is to stop it falling into their hands in the first place. While it’s important to insure your phone, you also need to make sure nothing happens to it when you’re not looking.

What to do if your phone is hacked

Think your phone has been hacked? Then take the following actions immediately:

  • Let contacts know your phone has been hacked and to check their own devices. Tell them to ignore any potentially suspicious messages.
  • Install and run security software on your phone.
  • Delete any suspicious apps, emails or texts and run the security software again.
  • Check accounts for any unauthorised purchases.
  • Check your email and social media accounts haven’t been compromised.
  • Change your passwords.
  • If problems persist then consider wiping and resetting the phone. Just make sure you’ve backed up your phone beforehand.

Making sure you have the right insurance in place is a key part of staying safe. When you're looking for phone insurance, contact the experienced team at Gadget Cover for a great quote.

5 of the most secure smartphones available now

If you’re worried a cyber attacker might decide to target you, then here are the best phone options for keeping yourself secure in the year ahead. But even if you do invest in one of these beauties, insure your phone to protect it from accidents.

1. Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Long regarded as producing some of the world’s most secure phones, Apple’s current iPhone line-up brings with it the excellent security and privacy features of the iOS 15 operating system. Such features include Apple’s iCloud Private Relay, Face ID technology, and the iCloud-enabled Find My feature.

Be aware the very recent arrival of the iPhone 14 Pro Max has made some significant upgrades to the already excellent iPhone 13 Pro Max.

2. Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro

man holding black google pixel 6 pro

As Android phones go, the latest offering from Google will take some beating. Because, as the creator of Android, Google will naturally ensure its own smartphones will be at the front of the queue when it comes to future security updates.

These flagship phones have won solid reviews thanks in part to the multi-layered approach to security that Google has taken. Equipped with the custom-made Tensor ‘system on a chip’, it contains technology that essentially stores sensitive data in a more heavily secured area of the device.

Reviewers at Wired magazine applauded the phone not only for its speed and efficiency but also security. And in our round-up of the Google Pixel 6 we had to agree.

3. Bittium Tough Mobile 2C

Finnish company Bittium is building rugged and secure smartphones for those who prioritise security. This model boasts two operating systems for complete data separation, an always-on VPN, a free YubiKey 5 NFC security key to support two-factor authentication and the company’s own advanced software.

Be aware the Mobile 2C model is only available for governments and other qualified organisations.

4. Purism Librem 5

The Purism Librem 5 is designed with security and privacy protection at its heart. It uses an open-source Linux OS that’s not based on either Android or iOS and offers lifetime updates.

Alongside other privacy-enhancing features, it also has three hardware-based kill switches. These turn off the camera and microphone, kill the power to Wi-Fi and bluetooth, and cut all network connectivity. When all three are hit it also disables GPS.

 Tech Radar has an in-depth review of the phone that’s well worth a read.

5. Sirin Labs Finney

Heralded as a state-of-the-art blockchain smartphone, the Finney is a uniquely designed phone from this luxury phone manufacturer. With a retractable display that tucks into the back of the phone to reveal an embedded cold storage crypto wallet, it definitely has the look of something that takes security very seriously.

Insure your phone with the specialists at Gadget Cover

In today’s fast-paced connected world, it can be difficult to stay on top of all the different tasks you need to do to keep yourself safe from harm. And that’s where Gadget Cover comes in.

Our team is always searching for the very best phone insurance policies suitable for your device, requirements and budget. If your gadget is accidentally lost or stolen, we’ll refund the cost of unauthorised transactions made using your e-Wallet facility up to a maximum of £500.

If you want to insure your phone with a specialist, our policies include protection against accidental damage, liquid damage, theft and breakdown as standard. And for an extra premium, you can insure your phone against loss, too.

Additional benefits include family cover to extend protection to your loved ones and worldwide cover, to include use of your phone anywhere in the world, up to 180 days a year.

Get a quote and insure your phone with Gadget Cover today.

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