Think your phone has been hacked? I can help and you don’t need to be a tech expert to find out for sure. This guide will teach how to tell if your phone is hacked in easy to follow steps.
I’ll cover a lot of information that I have gathered over years of working with spy apps and helping people discover hacks and data breaches. By the end you’ll know the signs to look for, who is at risk, how hackers work and how to stop them now and in the future.
Your phone can be hacked in many different ways and I’ll cover the main ones below. People mean different things when they say they think that their phone has been hacked – but most think that someone is spying on their activities in some way.
The definition of hacking – “the gaining of unauthorized access to data in a system or computer”.
Your phone is the computer and regardless of how any hacking has taken place – spy apps, malware, adware or phishing – someone may be accessing your data!
Physical Signs That Your Phone Might be Hacked
Here are a few common signs to look for when you suspect your phone might have been hacked:
- Excessive battery drain
- High phone temperature
- Change in phone behavior
- Random shut down or restart
- Blocked emails
- Receiving unusual texts
- Sudden increase in data use
- Strange background noises
- Electronic interference during calls
- Unusual pop-ups
- Unwanted apps are installed
- Unusual accounts activity
- Too many password change notifications
- Websites being redirected
I will cover each one in detail below. You need to think clearly when evaluating these signs. It is easy to think you have seen a couple of these signs and jump to the conclusion you have been hacked – when that may just be your phone acting up a bit – as most phones do!
If you are concerned and have reasons to suspect you have been hacked – you will tend to confirm these signs a little too quickly. You need to step back and evaluate any signs rather than jump to a conclusion.
The best advice is to make sure you are seeing several of these signs regularly and look for sudden changes in your phone or device.
This list applies to all types of cell phone – but there are some differences in things to look for between the iPhone and Android phones. I have separate articles to cover these along with this guide:
Now let’s look at the signs more closely and find out for sure.
Is My Phone Hacked – Really?
Is it hacked? That is the big question – not knowing for sure is the worst part. Here is a list of physical signs to look for in your phones behavior – signs you might be hacked:
Excessive Battery Drain
The key word here is “excessive” . It needs to be out of the ordinary and usually quite a sudden change. Your phone battery will start to run down more quickly as it ages – this is normal. Likewise if you are using the phone more than usual it will naturally run down more quickly.
The reason battery drain can be a problem is if malware or poor quality spy apps are running in the background causing the battery drain. Unfortunately, most modern spy apps have taken steps to prevent excessive battery drain – making them harder to detect.
High Phone Temperature
Like battery drain, if your phone is frequently getting very hot it could be a sign that something is running in the background. Again this could be a sign of malware, a virus or a spy app sending information from your phone. It could also be an app you need running so again use your common sense here.
Change in phone behavior
Look for sudden changes in your phone behavior. Is it lighting up when not in use? Making noises like receiving a text message, running slowly, apps crashing or the screen freezing a lot – all signs to look for.
A phone behaving like this can mean that something else is using up resources and putting a strain on your processor.
Random shut down or restart
Is your phone shutting down or restarting by itself? Another sign that something is not right. It could happen due to overloaded system resources caused by a malicious app.
Have you noticed emails not getting to their recipients – or bounced back to you? It could be a sign that your server details have been changed by a malicious program. Also look out for emails being sent from your phone that you did not send – some spy apps can do this.
Receiving unusual texts
Here, look for garbled text messages sent or received usually containing unusual text strings, characters and symbols. These are often used to control spy apps remotely.
Sudden increase in data use
Has your data use suddenly started to rise? This used to be a great way to spot spy apps – they send reports of all phone activity using the phone’s own data allowance. Again the best spy apps have reacted and now send all information in smaller data packets to avoid detection. Older programs may still use significant data so keep an eye on this.
Strange background noises
Hearing unusual background noises before, during or after making a call? We all have – but if it is regularly happening it could be a sign your phone is hacked.
Electronic interference during calls
Another sign can be electronic interference during calls. If someone is using a malicious app to record your calls they sometimes make strange noises when near to other electronic devices.
The kind of pop-ups to look out for are ones telling you your system has a problem. They can look very official and mimic real notifications. Usually they will try to direct you to purchase something. These are usually some type of adware infecting your device.
Unwanted apps are installed
It pays to keep a check on your installed apps. Have a look for any apps installed recently that you did not install! If you are not sure – search Google to identify the app.
Unusual accounts activity
Are you getting random notifications about sign ins on accounts linked to your phone? Most phones are signed in to accounts such as Google, iCloud, Facebook etc. If your phone is hacked your linked accounts can be hacked too.
Too many password change notifications
Like account activity above but this could also show that someone is trying to hack your phone through a linked account – changing your passwords in the process. Accounts like Google can also spot suspicious activity and send password notifications to protect you.
Websites being redirected
When you open your internet browser are you being re-directed to websites you didn’t intend to visit? Some malicious programs can hijack your browser sending you to pages with adds or spammy offers. Another sign of a possible hack or infection.
These are the most common signs that your phone may have been hacked in some way. Check them carefully and remember not to jump to conclusions – some of these signs can happen naturally from time to time. Look for several of these happening regularly as potential evidence of a hack.
Antivirus and Malware Software for Finding Hacks
Of course everyone should have some virus protection on an internet enabled phone as a standard. For most people the free versions are more than enough. You should routinely scan for virus infections using AVG or Avast – or your app of choice.
Malware Bytes is a useful free app to find unwanted malware on your device – again running this periodically is a good idea.
But there is a problem! These programs are designed to find and remove specific threats – ones they have been programmed to find. They are not reliable to find out if your phone has been hacked.
Spy apps in particular are not reliably found by antivirus apps or malware apps. So running a virus scan and coming up clean does not mean you are safe from a hacker.
Other Ways to Know if Your Phone is Hacked?
So you have gone through the list above but you are still not sure – is there anything else you can check? There are a couple more things you can check but they are more advanced and most people are not comfortable or get confused.
Search in the Phone’s Directories
This step involves searching through your phones storage and files manually looking for any suspicious file names or hidden apps. This can be a little beyond most people – when faced with the range of file names and directory names – what is needed and what can you get rid of?
I don’t recommend this unless you have a clear idea of what you are looking for.
Using a Code to Check if Your Phone is Hacked
You may have heard of this before – there is a built in security measure in most smartphones that people claim can show that your phone is hacked or tapped. I have a detailed article about Codes to See if Your Phone is Hacked or Tapped. I tested these codes and the results are surprising. Give it a read and come back to this article and learn more.
Why Do Hackers Target Phones?
Smartphones – phones with internet – access are the new personal computer … all around the world! In the last decade they have become the main way many people access the internet. With that comes access to banking, financial information, online shopping. You get the idea.
Your phone now holds a huge amount of personal data and gives access to your apps such as Facebook, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Not to mention personal videos and photos. The list is almost endless. Check my articles on How to Hack Instagram and then Snapchat Hack – just to see how vulnerable your accounts and passwords can be.
Hackers used to aim only at computers and laptops but now phones are the big target. If they hack your phone they have basically hacked everything on it. And today that is a lot of private information. For business owners getting their phone hacked is a nightmare!
There are different kinds of hacker:
Hacking Your Phone to Spy on You
This group can cover spying on a single person but also spying on a business for corporate reasons. It is targeted hacking of an individual.
When most people worry about their phone being hacked they think of someone tracking them or spying on texts and calls.
Cell phone spy apps have become very popular and are the best way to hack someone for the purpose of spying on their activities. They are intended to be used to monitor kids or company employee phone use – and are legal. Of course using them to spy on someone is not legal but you know how the world works.
This website covers in detail all about spy apps – used for legal and ethical reasons and I have been using and writing about them since 2011 ! I am well placed to advise people how to detect spy apps and how to remove spy apps – see those articles for more information.
I also have a Premium Cell Phone Security EBook – developed over several years experience with these apps. It is ideal for anyone who thinks they are being spied on by a spy app and needs more information than is available online. Check it out.
Hacking for Financial Gain
This usually covers a more widespread hacking technique. Here the aim is to gain money through scams, advertising and phishing for financial information such as credit cards and bank accounts. It can be targeted at an individual but usually the hackers try to have a wide spread of targets.
These amount to some serious criminal offenses. Hacks of this type are not really interested in your text messages and photos . They can be simple malware hacks to make money from scam offers or be complex phishing scams to hack financial accounts and commit fraud.
Law Enforcement Hacking
I often get contacted by people worried that some law enforcement agency is hacking their phone – asking what they can do. I do not reply to these kind of questions. I try to stick to legal aspects of cell phone spying and hacking.
We should all be aware that if any government law agency from the local sheriff to the FBI want to hack our phones they can and will. They can do this in a number of ways – most commonly by getting the data direct from your service provider.
There are numerous cases reporting how they often do this illegally.
One things is for sure – You will not find them using any commercial spy apps!
Ways Your Phone Can Be Hacked
Now I’ll cover the most common ways that hackers can get into your phone in the first place. They range from the simple to the complex:
Hacked Using Spy Apps
Spy apps are cheap, readily available and relatively easy to use. They can give the hacker almost unlimited access to everything you have stored on your phone and can even track your movements in real time. They have become the best way to spy on individuals and their use is growing fast.
Spy apps themselves are actually legal – when used properly. But you can’t just install them onto anyone’s cell phone … at least not legally. Spying on your spouse is not legal!
Be aware of how spy apps work – I cover them in a lot of detail here at Acisni.com. I think you need to be familiar with just how powerful they can be – most people are shocked! Take a look at a couple of my reviews to see the kind of features available for relatively little cost.
Spy apps can hack into your phone so completely, giving access to everything including social media accounts and passwords.
The one saving feature of getting hacked by spy apps is that the hacker needs to have physical access to your phone for at least a few minutes. They can’t be installed remotely as some websites claim. This gives you a chance to protect yourself. See my article on How to Detect Spy Apps – some detailed information on spy apps in particular.
There is a version of some spy apps that can be used to hack a phone without having it – I cover that next.
Hacked Using iCloud or Google Account
There is a hacking method used by some spy app companies – such as mSpy – that does not need physical access to the phone as no software is actually installed. They work by hacking into your iCloud account and reporting the information held in your phone backups. This is for the iPhone and Apple devices.
Versions also exist to hack Android devices through their Google account backups. For both versions to work the hacker must have your account username and password.
This method of spying is not just as powerful as the full version spy apps but still gives away a lot of your information – without your knowledge.
These are often quite sophisticated in their setup and can take many different forms. Basically the hacker sends an email or sms text message with a link or download to try and trick the victim into clicking it. They then install a malicious code to hack your phone and accounts.
Sometimes they will claim the email is from your bank or Pay-Pal and when you follow the link they have a spoofed website that looks just like the real thing – you enter your email and password and they have you!
Some of these attacks have been very widespread with serious breaches of data. Needless to say they are not legal!
Public Wi-Fi Hacks
Many public Wi-Fi hot-spots are unsecured and can be hacked quite easily by unscrupulous people. The danger is that you might use these to log in to bank accounts or private accounts and the hackers can see everything you are doing. They can gain access in this way.
Unsecured home Wi-Fi can also be hacked in this way – did you set a strong password on your home router? Not 12345 I hope!
Fake Charging Stations
This is a relatively new development. Hackers have discovered how to get into your phone when it is connected to public charging stations. Connecting via USB to charge your phone also allows data to be transferred – and they can download all your phone data.
If using a public charging station or computer be sure to only allow charging – not data transfer.
These have hit the headlines in recent years in relation to their use by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. They use technology also known as IMSI trackers or fake towers – the mobile phone connection is picked up by the Stingray or fake tower and relayed onwards.
In the process the hacker can download data from the target phone – and listen to and record calls texts and gps locations. Unfortunately, any other phones nearby can also be hacked in this way – breaching their privacy too. This has lead to controversy in the media.
Stingray is an actual spy product that can be bought online although they are very expensive well in excess of $120,000. They have been publicized by law enforcement scandals but you can be sure criminals are using them.
Although for most people you don’t need to worry about your partner spying on you with this method!
Hackers can target existing apps or even create their own. The apps can be coded to allow access to your personal data plus a range of other unwanted actions. Android phones are most at risk as users can install apps from any source – for the iPhone, unless it is Jailbroken you can only install apps from the Apple store.
One recent case involved the hackers creating look alike apps including WhatsApp and Signal in over 20 countries. They operated just like regular messaging apps but collected user information from their phones. Pretty sophisticated and a little scary!
This can never be a complete list of ways hackers can get into your phone – as technology develops the hackers find new and innovative ways to get your data. This list does cover most common ways they can hack you.
What to Do If Your Phone is Hacked
So you’ve done your research and followed this guide and …. you think your phone really is hacked. What can you do?
I have good and bad news … depending on how your phone was hacked you can usually remove the hacker from your phone quite easily.
For example if you have been hacked using a spy app – a simple factory reset is one reliable way to remove spy apps.
If you have been hacked by malware or a virus – again good antivirus app can clean up your device effectively.
The bad news – if you have been targeted by more sophisticated hacks you best action is going to be to clear your cell phone and get a new one! Yes I’m afraid it can be that bad.
But before you panic – this would be a rare occurrence. I have a series of articles to help you if you have been hacked – I really recommend having a look through them before doing anything. See the Online Security section on this website for all related articles.
Now you know how to tell if your phone is hacked … or not! Follow the steps outlined above and remember not to jump to conclusions – some of the signs can be displayed by phones just acting up a bit. If you really have been hacked you should check out my Premium Online Security Ebook.
Thanks for reading and good luck!