Hackers are a real threat to everyone who uses a connected device today, and smartphones are always in their sights because of how packed with personal data they’ve become.
Understanding the risks, knowing how to avoid being hacked, and checking for indications of a successful breach are all things modern users need to get to grips with, so here’s an overview of what you need to know to stay safe.
There are a few ways to reduce the chances of your phone being hacked, which is important given the huge surge in cases reported this year. These include:
Using a phone-scanning app
There are many reputable, effective mobile security apps out there today, such as Certo’s software solutions for seeking out malicious code and stopping it from infecting your handset in the first place.
Sticking to trusted websites
Malware can sneak onto smartphones from underhanded phishing sites, so it’s better to only visit sites you know and trust, and to never click links in unsolicited emails for the same reason.
Installing legitimate software
Mobile apps themselves can be a Trojan horse for hackers, so always make use of official app stores from Google and Apple, while also checking user feedback on apps you’re thinking of downloading to check their reputation.
Software updates for your smartphone need to be installed as soon as they’re released, since they’ll fix security issues and improve functionality as well.
Even if you know what to do to sidestep the likeliest sources of phone hacks, mistakes can still be made. So what signals are there to look out for which show your device is compromised?
A lack of responsiveness
Even modestly priced modern phones are powerful enough to make the interface feel snappy and quick to respond to user inputs. When things get laggy, it’s usually because the hardware is being pushed to its limits by some background process.
This is exactly what malicious code can do; leave your phone struggling to keep up with the demands being placed upon it, even if you aren’t actually running lots of apps and services yourself.
A battery that goes flat quickly
Let’s say you’ve got such a high end handset that the additional burden placed on the chipset by malware isn’t noticeable from a responsiveness perspective. The good news is that you can also be alerted to a hack by poor battery life.
Hackers beavering away in the background use up your battery quicker than usual, and this telltale sign should not be overlooked.
Data usage which is higher than expected
One red flag that hackers can’t hide from is data usage. When a phone is infected, the malware will need to send data elsewhere so that the cybercriminals responsible for it have something to manipulate or sell. This will be apparent in the metrics that every modern mobile records relating to network activity.
You might not notice this when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, but it should be highlighted when you’re on the move and using 4G or 5G connectivity. If your mobile phone plan comes with a limit on data usage, hitting this early in the month when you’ve not been doing anything data-intensive yourself should raise suspicions of a hack.
While having your phone hacked or infected by malicious software is not ideal, it’s also not the end of the world. With good security software installed, you can be more confident in using your handset from day to day, and have a means of fighting infections that do get through the defenses.