Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Do you know, a hacking attempt takes place every 39 seconds, which means over 100 smartphones hacked in an hour. Hacking is now a serious business and can cause a loss of millions of dollars to American exchequers.
Unsurprisingly, most of the hacking attempts today take place through smartphones. That’s why phone security is becoming a significant threat to our world.
Hackers can now infiltrate a mobile device within 18 minutes at max. The problem with today’s smartphones is that they are easy to hack. The security infrastructure current smartphones use is no match for the black hat hackers, especially the Russians and Chinese trained in cracking them daily. So, what can the average American do to tackle such security issues? In this article, we discuss how to keep your smartphone safe from black hat hackers who are after your data.
Why Smartphones get hacked?
Last year, data breaches cost $2.1million to businesses and individuals across the USA. Most of these data breaches occur through digital devices and smartphones. A few significant reasons hackers hack smartphone devices are:
To get personal data of the user
To steal the identity of the user
To get banking credentials of the user so to steal from their bank accounts
For revenge purposes - This is only for individual customers
To leak user data in the darknet or to sell it in the black market
How to Know If Someone Hacked Your Smartphone?
Most users often worry that their smartphones are prone to hacking. So, how do you find out if someone hacked your phone? Let’s learn about the symptoms that confirm that your smartphone is indeed hacked.
Your smartphone discharge faster
It restarts unexpectedly
The performance of your smartphone becomes too slow
You find apps that you didn’t install on the system
Your smartphone gets hot unexpectedly. Although this can also happen because of hardware malfunction.
Your smartphone has unknown numbers in the call log
Your voice echo when you use your smartphone for calling
Your phone doesn’t respond to your actions. Like it doesn’t turn off when you press the power button.
In some cases, you can get rid of these problems by backing up your data on an external drive and then enabling the ‘Factory Reset’ option.
If the factory reset option doesn’t work, or if it doesn’t restore your smartphone to the initial state, then your smartphone is most probably compromised.
Types of Phone Hacks
A few ways we explain how hackers attack your smartphone below:
A virus can infect the user through uncertified mobile apps, unauthorized links, files that are transferred either through Bluetooth or downloaded from the internet. Viruses can serve many purposes. Sometimes, they are just there to slow the performance of your smartphone. Viruses can infect anyone irrespective of the target they were designed to infect.
Trojan horse is a backdoor entry to your mobile phone. Hackers usually send trojan horse files disguised as another app. When you download them on your mobile, they start sending information to the hacker through the backdoor without you even knowing. Trojans also allows hackers to control your system.
Spyware programs send your information to the hacker through a backdoor. They can be keyloggers, malware, or even trojans. Spyware is not easy to locate, and you need a spyware detector to make sure that your smartphone has spyware or some other problem.
Phishing is a scam in which hackers use a fake landing page. They collect usernames and passwords through this fake landing page and then get access to the user accounts. Phishing landing pages can be detected through their URLs
Unsecure networks include open Wifi, public USB ports, unsecured Bluetooth connections, and more.
Operating System (OS) Level Security
Let’s learn how to keep your smartphone secure from hackers. First, we discuss the OS level security challenges and how you can solve them with simple changes to the OS.
Keep OS updated
First of all, keep your smartphone’s OS updated. Every smartphone, may it be Android or iOS, has an update option.
Open the Settings menu > About phone> System Updates.
The menu buttons can vary, but the process of updating the OS is more or less the same.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA)
Next, secure your smartphone with 2FA protection. If your smartphone has a biometric option available, you can use it in combination with a password. Alternatively, you can use a digital password and a security puzzle option. Adding 2FA security to your smartphone makes it hard for hackers to get access to your smartphone.
Manage App permissions
Most applications require system-level access to your smartphone. If you are not sure that these applications are secure, deny them permissions. In some smartphones, app verification is disabled by default. To enable it, click on Settings > Security & Screen Lock > Verify Apps.
Install Secure Apps Only
It is always better to install apps through the Google App Store or the Apple App Store. To make sure that you don’t install apps from third parties, make sure to disable the check on ‘Unknown Sources’ in the Settings menu. Disabling the installation of apps from third parties.
Don’t jailbreak or get root access
Jailbreaking is the way of removing restrictions imposed by the manufacturer. We usually use the term ‘Jailbreaking’ for iPhone and ‘Rooting’ for Android devices. Both serve the same purpose. However, don’t jailbreak or even buy a phone that has root access enabled. These smartphones cannot be sold for the same price and are easy prey for hackers. You can download an app called ‘Is my phone rooted’ to know if it is.
Restrict Remote Access
This may seem like an unnecessary task, but remote access can become a significant issue for most smartphone users. To check how many devices have remote access of your smartphone, click on Settings > Device Administrators > Check the number of apps. Except for the ‘Find my device’ app, it is better to disable all others.
Disable Voice Assistant on Lock Screen
Recently, CheatSolution showed a video in which they hacked an iPhone using Siri voice assistant. Apple later rectified that issue through updates, but you never know if your smartphone can get hacked through voice assistants. So, it is always better to disable voice assistants on the lock screen. Here is how to do that.
Go to Settings > General > Passcode > Allow Access When Locked > Turn Off.
Disable Background Apps
A few years ago, smartphone users reported that Chinese mobile developers had installed an app in the smartphones that could mine bitcoins without the user knowing about it. Chinese smartphone giants refuted the claim. However, hackers can spy on the user through a background app. So, disable the background apps on your mobile device through this method.
Go to Settings > Apps > Disable Background Apps one by one.
Disable Built-in Device Location
Data thieves or stalkers want access to your data and location. We recommend that you disappear from the grid at all times when necessary. This means that you should not reveal your location to websites or apps unnecessarily and keep the GPS disabled at all times. Simply click on Settings > Location > Disable GPS.
There have been instances where cyberbullies blackmailed users by getting access to their data and location. If you experience any such incident, complain to the authorities right away.
Always Keep a Backup
You can download apps that keep a backup of all your data on the cloud. Google Photos is one such app. It keeps a backup of your photos and videos on the cloud and then delete them from a smartphone. By keeping a backup, you make sure that even if your smartphone is compromised, there is nothing of importance that the hackers can get. Bravo!
Now that we have cleared our smartphone off root level issues let’s discuss how apps can play a role in compromising your smartphone.
Install Security Apps
Avast, Kaspersky, and many others have offered security software for mobile phones. If your smartphone has more than 3GB RAM available, you can install these security apps on your phone. It is not recommended to install these security apps on smartphones with only 2GB of RAM because they make the system slow in processing.
Security apps update themselves automatically. They are your first line of defense against trojans, viruses, and spyware.
Use a VPN When Accessing InSecure Websites
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) keep your information and data secure from eavesdroppers who are decrypting information from your network. These VPNs keep the information encrypted and provide secure access to the server. We recommend you subscribe to premium VPN servers, as they are protected and offer individual connections to the users. There are many free VPN servers available, but they don’t encrypt data across the network.
Use App-Level/Folder Level Passwords
App-level passwords serve another line of defense for users who have confidential material on their smartphones. Even if hackers can gain access to the smartphone, the app-level or folder level passwords keep the user data safe from hackers. There are many third-party apps available on Google Play and the Apple App Store that users can use to enhance their app-level security.
Internet level security
Now that we have discussed both system-level and app-level security issues let’s discuss internet level security issues. Most of the time, smartphones get hacked because of files they downloaded from the internet, or from links they opened while browsing a website.
Don’t Download Emails Attachments on Smartphones
Avast reports that emails are the most common way of hacking a system. Users don’t always pay attention to the attachments they are downloading on the smartphone. Moreover, when they accidentally open one of these attachments, their systems are infected. Most email attachments can also bypass security parameters because they design them with the latest security practices in mind. So, the best way to keep yourself safe from email attachments is to not download any attachment on the smartphone. If you are using Gmail on your smartphone, disable ‘Auto-Download Attachments.’ Go to Gmail > Settings > Your Account Settings > Disable Auto-Download Attachments.
Don’t Click on Suspicious Links
Suspicious links are another major problem for many internet browsers. Most blogs often redirect to suspicious links. Also, users can mistakenly click the files on these links without realizing the threat they pose to their smartphones. The best way to avoid suspicious links from the opening is to disable popups in your browser. Google Chrome, Opera, and FireFox browsers all have the option to disable popups from the settings menu.
Don’t Use Public Charging Spots
You never know which hackers compromise public charging spots. Sometimes, while traveling, you may come across these public charging spots.
In such a case, always charge your power banks. This way, your smartphone remains safe, and you can later charge your smartphone with these power banks. If you don’t have a power bank available, turn off the smartphone and then charge it with the public port. You can also use your charging cable to charge the smartphone, as some hackers manipulate the USB cable to copy data from your smartphone.
Avoid Auto Login
On most social media apps, we have enabled the ‘Auto-login’ option. Hackers can get access to these apps if they compromise the security of your smartphone. You must disable the auto-login feature for apps that you use regularly.
Also, if you have an essential email ID that you use for financial transactions and bank dealings, use two-factor authentication for this specific email id.
Don’t Keep Personal Data On Phone
In 2015, in a massive cyberattack, hackers locked the systems of users and asked for ransom. When the users paid the ransomed amount, the hackers copied essential data from their systems and sold them on the darknet.
Similarly, the creator of Bitcoins reportedly said that he lost almost $9million worth of bitcoins when he gave his system for repairs. The latter claim may sound ridiculous, but these types of issues can occur to almost anyone. So it is better that you avoid storing personal data on your smartphone. Even if you have to store that data on the phone, make sure that you copy it to a drive or on the cloud. So, in case of a hacking attempt, your data remains secure at all times. Both Dropbox and Google Drive allow users to automatically backup their files to the cloud.
Stay off the grid
Last but not least, keep yourself off the grid. You may have to chat with friends, family members, or even colleagues daily, which is fine. However, when you are not using social apps, keep your smartphone’s Wifi and Mobile Data disabled. Now, even if you have accidentally installed a malicious app, the hackers won't have access to your smartphone. Because your phone has no internet connection.
Hacking is a Cyber Crime - Beware!
Hacking is not fun. Black hat hackers that attempt to get into the system of other users are only making their own lives miserable. Just like any other crime, hacking is also a crime, and you should never attempt it for fun.
Tracing hackers to their den is now more possible than ever, thanks to multiple security applications available online.
According to US law on Cybercrime, a hacker will get three years in imprisonment and (or) a fine depending on the nature of the crime. However, if the data breach is severe and against the government, the hacker will get 10 years of imprisonment and (or) a fine depending on the nature of the crime.
Don’t Even Hack for Fun
Today, teenagers try to hack other smartphones just for fun. They brag about it to their friends to get popularity and recognition. However, hacking is not a funny business. Law enforcement agencies around the world have created specific laws on cybersecurity. Moreover, the punishment is more or less the same for both juveniles and adults engaged in cybercriminal activities.
For an average American, a smartphone plays a crucial role in their lives. It is no more a novelty that you use from time to time. Instead, it has become a core part of your daily routine. From booking cars to handling financial transactions to communicating with your colleagues, and to dealing with clients, everything happens through smartphones.
Therefore, you must keep your smartphone secure just like you keep your other essentials secure at all times. Most of us are unaware of how easy it is to compromise a smartphone. We don’t download security apps, don’t have personalized settings, and that makes the work of hackers easy.
We hope that the methods described in this article help you become more aware of how to keep your smartphone secure and away from the reach of hackers.