How can I tell if my phone has been hacked?

A young woman uses her phone confidently after learning how to know if your phone is hacked.

August 3, 2022

Phone hacking occurs when a cybercriminal uses malicious software to infect and compromise vulnerable smartphones, stealing the personal information stored on those devices. Sure, smartphones can glitch from time  to time — no device is perfect. But how do you know when it’s a simple hiccup or something a bit more serious?  

That’s where learning how to know if your phone is hacked comes into play. And luckily for you, we have the  answers. Use this guide to learn about phone hackers, signs of a hacked phone, and how to help keep your phone  safe. You won't regret making an effort to learn how to better protect one of your most used devices.   

5 warning signs of phone hacking

Five illustrations accompany important signs to know if interested in learning how to tell if your phone is hacked.

If your phone is displaying one of the following unusual behaviors, and especially if it’s displaying more than one,  there’s a good chance that it may be hacked.  

1. Strange or inappropriate pop-ups:

One apparent sign of a hacked phone is nonstop pop-ups. Bright, flashing ads or X-rated content popping up on  your phone is a big indicator that your phone has been compromised.   

2. Texts or calls not made by you

As the owner of your device, you likely remember every time you use your phone throughout the day. So, if you  notice texts or calls from your phone that you didn’t make, you may have had your phone hacked.   

3. Higher than normal data usage

There are many reasons for high data usage (for example, increased use of a new app). But if your phone behavior  has stayed the same and your data usage has skyrocketed, it’s time to investigate.  

4. Apps you don’t recognize on your phone

Keep in mind that new phones often come with pre-downloaded apps. But if you notice new apps popping up  once you already own the phone, there may be malware involved.  

5. Battery draining quickly

Phone batteries aren’t meant to last forever, but they’re also designed efficiently. So, if your phone use habits have  remained the same, but your battery is draining more quickly than normal, hacking may be to blame.  

How to stop someone from hacking your phone

Six illustrations accompany protection tips when learning how to tell if your phone is hacked.

If you’ve determined that you're dealing with a compromised phone, there are some steps you can take to address it. Before you start, we recommend letting your contacts know that your phone has been hacked, and that they  shouldn’t click any suspicious-looking links they may have received from you. Here are more steps you can take. 

Delete suspicious apps

Downloading a suspicious app is a common way to invite malware onto your phone. If you find that your phone  has been hacked, take an inventory of your apps and delete anything that came from a third-party source (in other words, not the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store). Confirm that any recently downloaded apps came from  reputable developers and have good reviews. If they don’t, delete them from your phone. 

Run anti-malware software

Anti-malware software can help you identify and target malware lurking on your phone. You should run this regularly, but if you haven’t done so before, now is a good time to start. If you’re concerned about malware, it’s smart to consider trusted security software like Norton 360 Deluxe to help protect your devices and online privacy.

Reset your phone

The majority of malware can be removed with a factory reset of your phone. This will, however, wipe any data  stored on your device, such as photos, notes, and contacts, so it’s important to back up this data before resetting  your device. Follow the instructions below to reset your iPhone or Android.  

Instructions for resetting an iPhone

  1. If you have a Mac with macOS Catalina 10.15, open Finder. Otherwise, open iTunes. 
  2. Connect your iPhone to your computer. 
  3. Select your device on your computer. 
  4. Select “Restore iPhone.” 

For more detailed instructions, visit Apple support

Instructions for resetting an Android phone

  1. Android reset instructions vary by manufacturer. You should visit your phone manufacturer’s website for specific instructions. 
  2. For most Android phones, you can access the reset option via your Settings menu, or by holding down the  power and volume buttons.  

For more detailed instructions, visit Google support. 

Change your passwords

It’s possible that your login credentials were compromised when your phone was hacked. Once you’ve removed  the malware, reset all of your passwords and create unique passwords for each account.  

5+ ways to avoid phone hackers

Three illustrations highlight hacking methods to be aware of when learning how to know if your phone is hacked.

We’ve already discussed some of the ways you might unintentionally download malware on your phone, so help  avoid that by diligently vetting apps, checking suspicious links before clicking them, and steering clear of public  Wi-Fi.   

Here are some more ways you can keep your phone secure:

  1. Avoid storing sensitive information (like credit card numbers) on your phone. Or, store them in a secure app. 
  2. Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it. 
  3. Create a custom passcode for accessing your phone. 
  4. Install the latest software updates as soon as they’re released.
  5. Lock sensitive apps. 
  6. Regularly monitor your phone for signs of unusual activity, like pop-ups or high battery usage.

The prospect of a hacked phone is certainly scary, but the good news is that you can take steps to help prevent  phone hacking (or to address it, if it’s already happened). Avoid different mobile security threats by frequently  monitoring your phone activity and being smart about what you click, download, and store. 

Phone hacking FAQs

Have questions beyond how to know if your phone is hacked? We have answers.

How do phones get hacked?

Smartphone hackers use a variety of methods to compromise cell phones. These include:   

Does resetting your phone get rid of viruses? 

Yes, a factory reset is one way to potentially remove a virus from an infected mobile device. 

Why do hackers hack your phone? 

Hackers compromise smartphones to access the personal information stored on each device, oftentimes  exploiting and/or selling what they get their hands on. 

Does turning off your phone stop hackers? 

Yes, turning off your phone can stop hackers, as most cyberattacks targeting cell phones require the device to be  turned on. 

Can hackers hear you? 

Yes, hackers may be able to hear you if they’ve gained access to your phone’s camera and microphone.  

Does airplane mode block hackers? 

Turning on airplane mode can temporarily block hackers while the device is not connected to Wi-Fi or a cellular  network.

What can a hacker do with your phone number? 

Hackers often compromise phone numbers in order to: 

  • Verify 2FA requests 
  • Send malicious links 
  • Complete vishing attacks

Can someone hack your phone and turn on your camera? 

Yes, cybercriminals can hack phones to gain access to their cameras. 

Norton™ 360 for Mobile

Powerful protection for your mobile device and online privacy – plus Dark Web Monitoring Powered by LifeLock™.

It’s more important than ever to make sure your mobile devices are secure and your personal information stays private. Norton 360 for Mobile helps deliver powerful, proactive protection for your device and personal information against stealthy cyberthreats and online scams.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. NortonLifeLock offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about cyber safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.

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