From work to leisure, we use our phones for everything. It’s like we’re living two different lives. One is in the physical world, and one is online. And they’re connected through the small device that fits in your pocket.

What can a hacker discover about you if they remotely control your phone?

Your emails, passwords, bank information, friends, family members, and every conversation ever.

Sounds scary, right? That’s because it is.

Cybercriminals can remotely hack your phone and control it. Here’s how they do it and what you can do to protect it.

How can someone hack your phone?

Generally, we get a lot of knowledge from the movies. A classic hacker tale is some guy in a hoodie going to a computer, plugging in a USB, and stealing information. That might have been the case decades ago, but we live in a different world.

Hackers don’t need to touch your phone to hack it. Most of the time, they use two methods.

In the first method, they go out to restaurants, cafes, airports, or monuments and connect to free Wi-Fi or set up their own. Then they wait. Say goodbye to your data if you connect to a public network without a VPN. Hackers can latch onto your device in minutes and lead you to malicious websites.

The second method is trickier. Hackers don’t even need to be nearby. They can stay at home and send you phishing texts and emails. For example, they can email you that somebody tried to log in to your banking app or Instagram account. The email will look real, identical to what the company could send. When you click on the link, they can initiate a download in the background. Or, they will wait for you to enter your real information.

In both of these cases, you make one mistake, and it’s all over.

For example, Hook, a new type of Android malware, can perform a complete device takeover. It can initiate transactions, pull information, and it specifically targets financial apps. Cybercriminals can buy access to this virus for $7000 and wreak havoc as much as they like. ERMAC, BlackRock, Octo, and Hydra are some of the other versions of malware that can do the same thing.

How to avoid getting hacked?

Now that you know how easily hackers can infiltrate your phone, it’s time to protect it.

The first few things you need to do are technical. Install an antivirus and a mobile VPN. These two apps will keep your device safe. The antivirus will scan your device for malware. The VPN lets you browse the web securely, even on free Wi-Fi.

Additionally, enable a lock screen, use multi-factor authentication, and update all of your apps.

Next comes human errors you can make. You can’t install an app for mistakes.

It’s important to never click on a suspicious link. If your friend sends you a jumbled link out of nowhere, don’t click on it. Instead, ask them what’s going on or call them. Most people fall for phishing scams because they trust their friends and don’t think twice before opening websites. Always double-check before you click.

If you get an urgent email or SMS from a company or a service prompting you to click fast, don’t do it. It’s usually a scammer in disguise, and they want you to act emotionally. It’s usually malware waiting on the other side, disguised as an urgent offer.

Finally, don’t jailbreak your phone. Unless you want to experiment with learning more about cybersecurity, or it’s a burner phone, don’t go for it. Jailbreaking drops your phone’s defenses, and you can get hacked more easily. That’s especially true if you don’t know what you’re doing. iPhones lose their warranty when you jailbreak them, so be wary of it.

How to know if your phone is hacked?

There’s no warning sign flashing when your phone gets hacked. Cybercriminals are as stealthy as their methods. But there are a few ways to detect that your phone has been hacked.

One sign is getting loads of popups. This is tough to spot if you’re playing loads of games. The X button is small, and you often get redirected to a random page when you miss it. That’s one of the ways to get an adware infection.

Another sign is your phone battery suddenly gets drained. iPhones have the option to show you battery health. If everything seems normal, yet, you need to carry a charger everywhere you go, you might have been hacked. Check through all of your apps, uninstall them, and see if that fixes the problem. If not, install an antivirus and perform a checkup.

In the same manner, your phone could be heating up a lot. It’s normal for your smartphone to get hot while you’re playing a game, using it to edit videos or browse social media for an extended period of time. But if you leave it on the table for a while and it’s still hot, something’s not right. Malware can be the reason why it’s overheating.

Getting unrecognized calls and texts falls in the same category. Especially if you get them often. These types of hacks spread around easily because they send messages to your contacts list. Block and report those unrecognized numbers immediately, and don’t answer the phone unless you’re expecting a call.

Last but not least, you might see apps you don’t recognize on your device. Sometimes, when you make a system update, you’ll get two or three new apps. That’s normal. But if you get an app you’ve never seen before out of nowhere, it’s a sign of bloatware, and you should delete it.

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