How to Tell If Your Phone’s Been Hacked: Signs, Solutions, and Staying Safe

Okay, let’s be honest. That little screen in your pocket? It’s not just a phone anymore. It’s your digital wallet, your photo album, your connection to friends and family. That makes it kind of terrifying to think someone else could be snooping around inside it.

Nevertheless, it’s an important question to ask from time to time: Has my phone been hacked? Here’s how to find out.

Telltale Signs Your Phone Isn’t Just Acting Up

Your Phone Isn't Just Acting Up

If any of the following start happening, it’s time to take notice – your phone might have an unwelcome guest.

Your battery’s a lemon

Ever felt like your phone used to last all day, but now barely makes it to lunchtime? Malware loves to hide in the background, draining your power nonstop. If your battery life suddenly takes a nosedive, it could be a warning sign that something fishy is going on.

Mystery apps have moved in

Scrolling through your apps and spot one you don’t recognize? Didn’t install that yourself? It’s time to get suspicious. 

Hackers sometimes use sneaky apps with innocent-sounding names to disguise spyware and other nasty stuff. Do some digging – if you can’t figure out what an app is for or where it came from, delete it ASAP.

Data usage is off the charts

Your phone bill is normally predictable but, all of a sudden, you’re blowing past your data limit. Hackers might be using your phone to secretly send information in the background. 

Check your data usage settings to see which apps are the biggest culprits – if there’s one you don’t recognize hogging data, that’s a red flag. And if it’s one you do recognize, but it’s using far more data than it should be (think a game app you haven’t played in months), that’s a red flag, too.

Pop-ups are the new normal

A few ads here and there are to be expected, but if your phone’s suddenly bombarded with pop-ups, especially ones that seem sketchy or inappropriate, watch out! Hackers use these to trick you into clicking on those ads, potentially downloading more malware (or giving up sensitive info).

Things are just…weird 

Getting calls or texts from your own number?  Settings changed without your knowledge? Apps opening and closing on their own? 

While the occasional glitch happens, if your phone starts acting seriously strange, don’t dismiss it as your phone just being a jerk. Hackers can sometimes remotely control aspects of your device, so unexplained weirdness is worth investigating.

But What If It IS Hacked?

Okay, the signs point to your phone being hacked. Don’t panic! While it’s a major pain, you can take back control. Here’s your step-by-step action plan:

  • Cut the connection. The first step is damage control. Turn on airplane mode immediately. This severs the hackers’ access and stops them from causing more trouble.
  • Alert your people. If your contacts are getting strange messages or calls from “you,” give them a warning ASAP. Let them know your phone’s been compromised and to ignore anything weird until you’ve sorted it out.
  • Change those passwords! This is super important! Hackers go after your email, bank accounts, and anything else valuable. Change your passwords on a separate device (like a computer), focusing on the most critical accounts first.
  • Ditch the dodgy apps. Be ruthless! Delete any app you don’t recognize or no longer use. Hackers often sneak in through innocent-looking apps, so err on the side of caution. Just make sure you’re not deleting something important, like an app that helps your phone run.
  • Security scan time. Download a well-regarded antivirus app. Run a full scan – this will help root out any hidden malware the hackers might have left behind.

Keeping the Hackers Out

Keeping the Hackers Out

Prevention is way better than the headache of getting hacked, so here are some best practices for you to work on:

Prevention TipWhy It Matters
Only official storesStick to the App Store or Google Play. Apps on official stores undergo some security vetting, reducing the risk of downloading malware in disguise.
Think before you clickLinks in texts or emails, even from “people you know,” could be traps. Hackers use phishing tactics to trick you into clicking malicious links that download malware or steal info.
Update, update, updateYour phone’s software updates often patch security holes. Updates fix vulnerabilities hackers exploit, so ignoring them leaves you open to attack, whether you’re on an iPhone or an Android.
Password power-upUse a unique, strong password (and a password manager to help you keep track!). Weak or reused passwords are easy for hackers to crack. Strong passwords and a password manager make your accounts tougher targets.

What if I Need More Help? Resources and Next Steps

While these tips can help you tackle many phone hacking situations, sometimes you might need extra support.  Here’s where to turn:

  • Reporting the hack:  If you suspect your information has been stolen or your finances compromised, report the incident.  Contact local law enforcement, or use online reporting resources like the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
  • Professional assistance:  For serious hacks, especially those affecting your business or involving sensitive data, consider consulting an IT professional or phone repair service. They can help with deep cleaning your phone, recovering lost data, and strengthening your security going forward.

The Takeaway

Phones are amazing, but they’re also little targets in our pockets. Being aware of the risks is half the battle.  Following these tips makes you a way tougher target for hackers, letting you breathe easy and get back to enjoying your trusty digital sidekick.

Thomas Ward

Thomas Ward

Thomas Ward brings over a decade of cloud, infrastructure, and reliability engineering experience to the forefront of Spyrus’s mission. His time at leading tech innovators like Microsoft, Oracle, and MongoDB has shaped his deep understanding of how attackers exploit weaknesses in cloud systems and how to proactively defend them. Thomas witnessed the rapid shift to cloud environments alongside an explosion of cyber threats. He founded Spyrus out of a conviction to help businesses navigate this complex landscape. He leverages his expertise to build tailored, proactive cybersecurity solutions that protect clients’ sensitive assets and ensure their systems stay up and running – no matter what.