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 repeated issues may leave you wondering, "Is my phone hacked?”
That’s where learning how to know if your phone is hacked comes into play. 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 also don’t have to go it alone. Norton 360 Deluxe helps keep your phone protected with built-in antivirus protection and a VPN to help you browse safely and protect your phone from hackers.
5 warning signs of phone hacking
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 it may be hacked.
1. High data usage
If your cell phone bill comes back higher than expected, this could be a sign that your phone has malware. This is because spyware or malware constantly runs on your phone, eating up data usage.
Keep an eye on your data usage even if you have an unlimited phone plan, so you can pick up on this sign your phone may be hacked.
2. Persistent pop-ups
If you’re constantly plagued by inappropriate pop-ups while browsing on your phone, this could be a sign that your phone’s been hacked. Flashy ads or inappropriate content popping up on your phone are both indicators that your phone has been compromised.
When a pop-up occurs, carefully close the window and be careful not to click anywhere on the pop-up.
3. New apps you didn’t download
Despite its ominous name, bloatware, or pre-downloaded apps on your phone, can be normal. But if you notice your phone has new apps you didn’t purchase, this could be a sign that a hacker has access to your phone.
4. Unrecognized outgoing calls
An accidental dial happens now and then, but if your outgoing call history is full of calls you don’t remember making, this could be a red flag. If your phone is sending out calls or texts on its own, this is a sign your phone could be hacked.
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
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.
Run anti-malware software
Anti-malware software can help you identify and target malware lurking on your phone. You should run it regularly, but if you haven’t done so before, now is a good time to start. Norton 360 Deluxe can help protect you from malware and make browsing on your phone a safer experience.
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.
Delete suspicious apps
Downloading a suspicious app is a common way to accidentally 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 app store or other source (in other words, not the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store).
You should also check to see what data the app has access to so you can change passwords and update personal information if needed.
Confirm that any recently downloaded apps came from reputable developers and have good reviews. If they don’t, delete them from your phone.
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.
When you’re resetting your phone, don’t back up your apps, especially if you suspect your phone has malware. Instead, take note of which apps you’d like to re-download and vet them to ensure they’re legitimate.
Follow the instructions below to reset your iPhone or Android.
Instructions for resetting an iPhone
- Back up your key files from your phone
- Open the Settings app
- Select “General,” then “Transfer or Reset iPhone,” then “Erase All Content and Settings”
For more detailed instructions, visit Apple support.
Instructions for resetting an Android phone
- Android reset instructions vary by manufacturer. You should visit your phone manufacturer’s website for specific instructions.
- For most Android phones, you can access the reset option via your Settings menu, then navigate to “General Management” to reset your phone.
For more detailed instructions, visit Google support.
6 tips to protect your phone from hackers
You should be wary of connecting to public Wi-Fi networks and investigating any apps you download on your phone, but where else do hackers come from? Here are some other ways you can stay safe while on your phone:
- Don’t save information like passwords or credit card information on your phone unless you’re using a secure app such as a password manager.
- Create a unique password for your phone that’s not easy to guess.
- Use a password to lock sensitive apps.
- Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it.
- Regularly monitor your phone for signs of unusual activity, like pop-ups or high battery usage.
- Update your software and operating system as soon as the update is released.
Staying safe on your mobile device
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 and remove a hacker from your phone 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.
Still worried about potential hackers who want access to your personal information? Norton 360 Deluxe gives you a leg up against potential mobile threats. Not only does it help prevent hackers from accessing your device, but it also monitors the internet and dark web for your information, alerting you right away if your accounts have been compromised.
FAQ about if your phone is hacked
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:
Why do hackers hack your phone?
Hackers compromise smartphones to access the personal information stored on each device, oftentimes exploiting or selling what they get their hands on.
Can you check to see if your phone is hacked?
Yes, antivirus phone software is often able to check your phone for signs you’ve been hacked. Norton has mobile plans for iPhone and Android that can help detect if your phone has been compromised.
Can you remove a hacker from your phone?
Performing a factory reset should remove hackers from your phone. Once you’ve done this, you can use antivirus software to keep them out of your device.
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.
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.
What can a hacker do with your phone number?
Hackers often compromise phone numbers in order to:
Can someone hack your phone and turn on your camera?
Yes, cybercriminals can hack phones to gain access to their cameras.
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.