For many people, your phone is an extension of you. It goes where you go, it tells you what you need to know, and it stores your precious memories. And that’s all the more reason to be extra careful about protecting your personal data.
According to a survey, 41% of adults say that they or someone they know has had to deal with a virus on one of their devices.Disclosure 1 And while the internet has made our lives easier, it’s also opened new ways for scammers to take advantage of us. But the good news is there are ways to protect your devices and data.
What is phone hacking, and how does it happen?
Phone hacking is pretty much what it sounds like. Someone gets access to your phone’s data, typically by breaching it electronically (but having your phone physically stolen counts, too).
You may unknowingly open yourself up to phone hacking by clicking a bad link, downloading something from a sketchy source, or even simply using unsecured public Wi-Fi.
How to tell if my phone’s been hacked
There’s no simple way to say for sure whether or not your phone’s been hacked—but here are some signs you might notice if it does happen to you. (The more of these signs you notice, the more likely it could be that your phone’s been hacked.)
- Strange texts or calls. Check your outgoing calls and messages. If you’re seeing messages you didn’t send or calls you didn’t make, it could be a hacker.
- Apps you don’t recognize. Hackers may install malware through apps on your phone. (Most phone hacking happens after someone downloads a bad app or clicks a sketchy link.) If there are apps on your phone you don’t recognize, delete them.
- Pop-ups. You’ve probably experienced getting hit with “urgent” or explicit pop-up ads while checking out a website before. If you start getting pop-ups like these on your phone, it could be a sign of a virus from a hacker.
- Your phone running slowly or crashing often. There are multiple reasons this could be happening—and it may just be that your phone could benefit from a “clean-up”—but it’s possible that a hacker’s under-the-radar activity could be the cause.
- Unusual activity on your accounts. If a scammer gets into your phone, there’s a good chance they’ll look for your personal stuff and attempt to reset some of your passwords. If you’re noticing unusual activity on your social media, email accounts, or banking and finance apps, that could be another sign of phone hacking.
Steps you can take to help block hackers from your phone
If you suspect your phone’s been hacked, then get on defense. Doing one or all of these things can protect not only your data, but your peace of mind, too.
Step 1: Change your passwords. (Here are some tips for creating strong passwords.)
Step 2: Delete any suspicious apps from your phone, and run antivirus software if you have it. Many cybersecurity firms are offering free anti-malware products for your phone and other devices.
Step 3: Let your important contacts know you’ve been hacked, so they know not to click any links from “you” (hackers will sometimes target your personal network, posing as you through texts or your social accounts). This will help protect them from being scammed, too.
Step 4: Check your bank and credit card statements to help you pinpoint any transactions you didn’t make. You can dispute the charges with your bank if you’ve been a victim of fraud.
9 tips to help keep your devices and data safe
When it comes to mobile security, there’s plenty you can do to be proactive. Take some time today to implement one or more of these nine tips. Doing something, no matter how small, will get you a step closer to security and comfort.
- Turn on automatic updates for upgraded protection as soon as it’s available. (Often, companies like Apple include security fixes in their software updates.)
- Choose strong, unique passwords and use multifactor authentication (like fingerprints, Face ID, or one-time passcodes) where available.
- Avoid storing sensitive information—like a credit card number—on your phone.
- Be careful when using public Wi-Fi, and avoid making payments on unsecured networks. (Pro tip: Using a virtual private network (VPN) can help establish a secure connection wherever you are. Here are some tips for setting up a VPN on your phone.)
- Bring your own charger instead of using a free charging station. Hackers can install malware in public stations to steal your information.
- Think before you click. Use caution when downloading or clicking on any unknown links, and delete emails that are suspicious or are from unfamiliar sources.
- Install apps you trust. Look at reviews and users before downloading to make sure they’re trustworthy.
- Don’t share passwords or PINs. The more you share, the more opportunities hackers have to access your money and more.
- Reset or destroy your device’s hard drive when it’s time to upgrade. Your phone’s next owner doesn’t need to see your private information, even if it’s just pictures of your dog.
Remember, Truist won’t reach out to you through phone or email to ask for confidential information such as passwords, PINs, Social Security numbers, or account numbers. If you think an email or text message seems fishy, contact the organization directly using a legitimate customer service number. And if your device is lost or stolen, let your carrier know as soon as you can.
The technology behind these crimes is complex, but there are simple steps you can take to help prevent them. By taking a few minutes to brush up on your security and privacy, you can keep yourself, your data, and your sanity safe. For extra peace of mind: Finally, for good measure, you can reset your phone to its factory settings to wipe all the data—just be sure to back up your memories and other important stuff first.