Has Your Phone Been Hacked? 6 Telltale Signs of Infection

If you use your smartphone as much as I do, then having a stranger hack into it is nerve-wracking! Cybercriminals would love to get their sneaky hands on all your photos, messages, and passwords. They can use your information to steal your identity, get into your online banking account, and even blackmail you with whatever they find.

You may have noticed your phone acting strange, but don’t panic and chuck it in the trash just yet. Below I list 6 telltale signs your phone has been hacked and give you tips on how to get rid of that freeloading hacker. You can secure your phone right away if you use CyberGhost VPN to keep network attacks at bay.

How to Tell if Your Phone Has Been Hacked

1. Your Phone Is Moving at a Snail’s Pace

Phones get slower with age. Yet, it may be running malicious software in the background if it’s taking forever to do anything. You’ll also notice the phone getting warmer than usual and apps not working correctly because the hacker is overloading its resources.

2. The Battery Wants to Take a Nap

If you’ve had your phone for a while, you should have a good idea of how long the battery generally lasts before you need to recharge. A hacked phone usually has a decreased battery life. That’s because cybercriminals are constantly scanning the device, using your camera, copying your files, or running hidden apps.

3. Your Phone Has a Life of Its Own

A hacked phone may activate unexpectedly or have apps that open without your permission. An infected device could also have strange messages, emails, or phone calls that you didn’t make.

4. Data Spikes Are Driving Up The Bill

Another sign of a hacked phone is unusually high data usage. Malware may be the culprit if your bill is much higher than normal and you didn’t do anything differently. You can also check data usage statistics in your phone’s settings to see whether the spikes correlate to anything you did or not.

Screenshot of low mobile data usage on Android with list of restricted apps

5. You Get Mysterious Pop-Ups

Malware doesn’t always cause pop-ups, but constant pop-ups can be a sign that your phone has been hacked. Your phone could be infected with spyware or adware. Pop-ups that aren’t caused by malware can still be dangerous as they can contain phishing links that infect your device.

6. Unusual Activity on Your Phone or Accounts

If your device is infected, you may notice strange apps, files, or photos that you didn’t have before. Check your online accounts as well to see if hackers tried to reset your passwords, send messages, or read your emails.

How to Check if Your Phone Camera is Hacked

Crafty cybercriminals can hide their tracks if they’re accessing your device’s camera, but you may still notice some strange behavior. One indicative sign is when your camera app opens by itself or your flash lights up for no reason.

You should also keep an eye out for photos or videos that you didn’t record. While that can happen by accident, it shouldn’t be a constant occurrence. If that’s the case, you could have a hacker controlling your camera behind the scenes. The same goes for the webcams on your other devices!

How Can Hackers Target Your Phone?

Attack Method Details
Malicious Apps Malicious apps can slip behind Google and Apple Stores’ security. They can be hard to spot because they usually function as advertised, while they run malicious code in the background. They can also install hidden apps on your phone.
Phishing Phishing scams spread through emails and SMS. You may have received unwanted messages from strangers or even strange links from a friend. Beware! Phishing attacks come in many forms and can secretly install malware on your device.
Unencrypted Wi-Fi Networks Public Wi-Fi is unencrypted to facilitate connection. Yet, they’re very risky. Anyone on these networks can see and access your device. If you’re not careful on public Wi-Fi, cybercriminals can also install malware on your device without you noticing.
Fake Wi-Fi Hotspots Fake Wi-Fi hotspots look like genuine Wi-Fi networks, like the airport’s. Yet, cybercriminals create these free hotspots to lure you in and steal all your information or install malware on your device.
SIM Swapping If a cybercriminal gets hold of your personal information, they can contact your carrier and pretend to be you. They can then request a SIM swap and transfer your number to their device to take over your accounts.
Spyware Spy apps are very common, and anyone can install them, even those close to you. They require physical access to your phone, but a person only needs a few minutes to install one. Hackers can even install some spy apps remotely.
Poorly Coded/Abandoned Apps Every app on your phone is a potential gateway for hackers. Cybercriminals can exploit any security holes in the app if it’s poorly coded or the developers aren’t updating it anymore.
Stingray Operations The name may sound cool, but in reality, Stingrays are tools used by agencies like the FBI and UK police force to spy on people. It’s commonly done to find criminals through their phones, but these tools are controversial because they gather information about everyone in the area.

Who Wants to Hack Your Phone?

You might think you have nothing worth stealing, but cybercriminals would disagree. Your data is a goldmine for people who want to steal your login credentials, credit card information, identity, or sensitive files. Using that, they can empty your bank accounts, impersonate you, or even blackmail you.

It’s also important to remember that those close to you can be spying on you. A family member or friend may have installed spyware on your device to keep track of you.

The government can also invade your privacy. We’ve become used to the idea of agencies like the NSA and FBI monitoring our online activity – so much so we even make memes about it. That shouldn’t be normal, though, and these entities keep pushing for more surveillance.

Screenshots from How to Train Your Dragon used for a meme about FBI spying

What to Do if Your Phone Has Been Hacked

If you’re worried someone is snooping around on your phone, you can do a few things to quickly “unhack” your phone. Below, I go through 6 things you need to do immediately if you suspect your phone has been hacked. Still, these won’t be enough for the long haul if you don’t want it to happen again. That’s why I also list some things you can do to keep your smartphone safer in the future.

6 Things To Do Immediately if Your Phone is Hacked

1. Delete Questionable Apps Right Away

A malicious app likely infected your device. You can delete anything suspicious to eliminate the problem. Make sure to delete any apps you downloaded before you started noticing your phone acting strange.

2. Install a Trusted Mobile Security App

A good security app will have robust antivirus and antimalware tools that help you track down and eliminate rogue software. Stick to reputable apps from security companies that won’t add a whole new set of problems to your list. Premium antivirus apps are better, because you know how they’re making money – whereas free apps might sell your data to get an income. Many reputable security companies also provide free versions of their paid apps, but with fewer features.

3. Change All Your Passwords

Changing your passwords would lock out the cyberthug from your accounts. Try to do this on a different device, if you can, so the hackers can’t see your new passwords, as that would defeat the point!

Every new password should be strong and unique – here are some great tips for creating a strong password. Use a trusty tool like a password manager to secure all your passwords.

Screenshot of a secure password generator with a newly generated password

You can also set up two-factor authentication for your accounts if you haven’t already. It’d be better if the device that receives the OTP (one-time password) isn’t the one that’s hacked, though.

4. Turn Off Your Data/Wi-Fi

Cybercriminals can’t do much when your phone isn’t connected to the internet. Even if they’ve already stolen your data, switching off the connection gives you some time to breathe and recoup. They can’t do anything new or keep monitoring you while your internet is off. They may still be able to listen in on any phone calls you make or read SMSs you send, so be careful.

5. Let Your Contacts Know

The malicious parties that infected your device may have sent phishing messages to your contacts from your phone or the accounts linked to it. Let everyone know you’ve been hacked, so they don’t click on any suspicious links or reply to the messages you didn’t send.

6. The Last Resort: Restore Your Phone

Restoring your device will delete everything currently on the phone and it’ll be like the day it came out of the box. That would wipe the offending software from your phone, but you’ll also lose everything on your phone forever. You have to backup any files, photos, videos, or messages that you want to keep before you start this process.

Note: These steps may differ depending on the device and operating system (OS) version you have. Check out the steps below to see how you can do it on your device.

How to Restore Your Android Phone:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Type Reset into the search bar
  3. Select Restart & reset
  4. Click on Factory data reset

Screenshot of the factory data reset page in the Android settings menu

How to Restore Your iPhone:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Click on General
  3. Select Transfer or Reset iPhone
  4. Click on Erase All Content and Settings

Once you’ve taken all these steps, the cybercriminal should have lost access to your device and account. Still, a hacker can always regain access to your phone. Don’t get stuck in this vicious cycle! Here are 7 things you can do to protect yourself from future threats.

7 Steps for Future Protection Against Hackers

1. Put a Lock on Your Screen

It may sound like something that only happens in movies, but people regularly install spyware on unlocked phones. Your quick trip to the bathroom is enough time for someone to download a new app on your device. When you add a lock screen, you lower the chance of someone accessing your phone without your permission.

2. Don’t Overshare on Social Media

In this case, sharing isn’t caring. Hackers can use your social media posts to track you down, steal your identity, and even perform a SIM swap. Social media is great for connecting with friends and loved ones, but be mindful of what strangers can see, too. Don’t post your bank information, credit cards, your exact whereabouts, and vacation plans.

3. Change Your Privacy Settings

Your online accounts, especially social media, often allow you to choose what information they can gather and share. Try to change your privacy settings so the apps track and store as little of your data as possible. Here are a few pointers to help you get started if you’re unsure how to make your social accounts more secure.

4. Delete Old Apps/Accounts

Old apps and accounts provide ways for hackers to get into your device. You can delete any old apps or accounts you don’t use anymore to protect yourself from that potential exploitation.

5. Scrutinize App Permissions

Some apps ask for way too many permissions that they don’t need to function. Hackers can piggyback onto these apps and spy on you through them. Whenever you download a new app, carefully go through its permission requests and don’t accept anything that seems strange. For example, a photo editing app shouldn’t need access to your contacts.

6. Use a VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts your online traffic and keeps everything you do online away from prying eyes. CyberGhost VPN has user-friendly apps for Android and iOS and provides fast speeds and access to 7500+ servers so you can always stay connected.

Use CyberGhost VPN to ensure hackers can’t monitor your messages or online accounts. The network and military-grade encryption mitigate a lot of hacking attempts that would otherwise take place unhindered. And we use the best 256-bit AES encryption – so they’re not getting through!

7. Beware of Phishing Attempts

Phishing attempts are sometimes hard to spot, as cybercriminals can be deviously sneaky, but you need to stay vigilant. Ignore messages from strangers and never click on any links they send. Be wary of unwarranted or strange messages from your contacts as well. Always contact them directly if you’re unsure about something they sent. That includes emails and SMSs from companies you trust, like your bank or insurance provider.

No tool or amount of preparation can guarantee your device will never be hacked again. Yet you can ensure your phone is secure and won’t be an easy target anymore. Preventative measures are your best defense against hackers because they favor tactics that give them easy access to as many people/devices as possible. When you make it hard for them to target you, they usually move on.

The Best Privacy Tool for Your Phone: CyberGhost VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) protects your phone, and other devices, against many of the digital vulnerabilities you face from day to day. When you connect to CyberGhost VPN, your traffic is rerouted and secured by an impenetrable 256-bit encryption.

Get CyberGhost VPN on your Android or iOS and stay protected against these common threats:

Type of Vulnerability How CyberGhost VPN protects you
Unencrypted Wi-Fi Networks Your device is secure when you connect to public Wi-Fi because CyberGhost VPN forms a protective barrier around your connection. This keeps outsiders and everyone else on the network from accessing your device or seeing what you do online.
Man-in-the-Middle Attacks Cybercriminals can insert themselves on the path between your device and the websites you visit, letting them eavesdrop or impersonate you. CyberGhost robust encryption prevents them from getting a foothold on your connection.
Stingray Operations The authorities (and anyone else) can’t use surveillance tools like a Stingray to monitor your devices when your connection is encrypted. They would need to get through the encryption first, and that’s impossible with CyberGhost VPN’s military-strength encoding.
Privacy Intrusions by Companies Companies track you online using your IP address, but they can’t pin you down if your address keeps changing. CyberGhost VPN has 7500+ servers across the world, so you can change your IP address as often as you like.
Browser Tracking The CyberGhost Private Browser is like incognito mode on steroids. When you use this browser you’re safe from creepy crawly web trackers and dodgy adware.


How can I tell if my phone has been hacked?

Your phone may be hacked if you notice strange apps you didn’t install, photos or videos you didn’t take, or calls and messages you didn’t send. A hacked phone also runs much slower and overheats more than usual.

If you suspect something is wrong with your phone, you can install an antimalware app and CyberGhost VPN to boost your security. Our 45-day money-back guarantee gives you plenty of time to test CyberGhost VPN’s robust security features for yourself.

What should I do if my phone is hacked?

If you have an uninvited guest on your phone, you should immediately change your passwords. You can also download mobile security tools like an antivirus app and VPN to clean out malware and protect your connection.

Download CyberGhost VPN to benefit from iron-clad protection, so you can enjoy peace of mind whenever you go online. We have 7500+ servers across 91 countries, so you’ll always be safe, whether you’re home or on the road.

How do I prevent my phone from being hacked?

Apply these basic safety principles to keep your accounts and devices safe:

– Use a strong and unique password for every account
– Don’t click on unwarranted links in messages or emails
– Avoid oversharing on social media
– Delete old and unused apps and accounts
– Restrict unnecessary app permissions
Use CyberGhost VPN to encrypt your connection

Which gets hacked more and why – Android or iOS?

While cybercriminals are targeting iOS devices more every year, they’re able to hack Android devices more frequently. The main reason is that more people use Android devices. Apple also uses a closed operating system, which makes it harder for hackers to get a foothold.

You can mitigate some of the risks when you install CyberGhost VPN for either Android or iOS. We keep your connection private and secure, so you can watch YouTube videos and browse Reddit in peace!

What techniques are used to hack a phone?

Hackers use many techniques to hack a phone, like phishing, malware, fake Wi-Fi hotspots, and unsecure networks. You can use CyberGhost VPN to protect your devices against many of these common threats.

Can a VPN stop my phone from being hacked?

A VPN can protect you against many types of hacks, including man-in-the-middle attacks. CyberGhost VPN uses impenetrable 256-bit encryption. It forms a protective layer around your connection, so cybercriminals can’t get in.

Still, hackers may get access to your device if you accidentally download malware or malicious apps.

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