Our smartphones are diaries of our daily lives. We store all kinds of personal information there, from our bank details to photos of our loved ones.
However, this information can be valuable to hackers who want to attack us for a number of reasons. Whether it’s blackmail, intimidation, espionage, fraud or identity theft, our phones can very easily be turned into weapons that hackers will use against us.
There are several ways for a hacker to gain access to your phone, some more sophisticated than others, but by taking a few simple precautions you can stop them. Here are some common methods used by phone hackers.
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Not leaving your phone unattended and being careful what you say can prevent your phone from being hacked (Image: Getty) Phishing
Hackers often trick victims into divulging their personal information by creating fake websites that mimic those of big companies. They may send you an email encouraging them to click on links, download an app, or enter your login information so they can access your phone.
Before responding to such requests, you should be aware of some red flags that indicate the fraudulent nature of the email. Does the sender’s email address match the email addresses associated with the company? Does the website URL look suspicious? Is the link you clicked trying to automatically download files to your phone?
Ask yourself these questions before entering information, especially if you’re prompted for a username, password, or bank details.
Hackers can set up a fake app to access files on your phone. Whenever you download an app, you will usually be asked to grant it permission to access things like camera, microphone, photos, videos, location, and browser history .
Most apps will ask you to grant these permissions in order to use features like video chatting or transferring photos taken with the camera. They also use these powers for marketing purposes which must be specified in their terms and conditions.
For example, an app can use artificial intelligence to listen to your calls through a microphone to send you targeted advertisements based on the topics you talk about. However, a malicious app can use the same permissions to literally spy on you, so be careful when downloading an app and always check the permission settings for each app.
Hackers can trick you into clicking a link that downloads malware to your phone. This is often done through phishing. While this malware can monitor your phone activity, it can also track your GPS to know where you are going.
Another easier way for hackers to do this is in person. You may unknowingly leave your phone unattended with someone who may know your PIN, perhaps a jealous partner. Unbeknownst to you, they could be downloading a tracking app to your phone that will give them access to your GPS and allow them to see your location from their own phone.
The best way to avoid this scenario is to make sure you don’t leave your phone unattended in places you don’t know or with people you don’t trust.
SIM card replacement
Hackers often trick you into revealing information about yourself in many sneaky ways, sometimes even through a conversation. They may ask you random questions such as “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “what’s your favorite color?” to try to guess your secret combination of questions and answers.
If they get enough information about you, they can access your online accounts and even learn to imitate you. If they hack your social media accounts, you’ll usually receive an email about a suspicious login, but how it spreads will mostly depend on how much information you’ve given them.
They can even call the network operator and convince them that it is you and ask them to transfer their phone number to a new SIM card. This way, your SIM card will be automatically deactivated and the hacker will take control of your phone number, so be careful what you say to others, especially if it’s someone you don’t know.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Hackers can gain access to your device by hacking into your Bluetooth device. To do this, your Bluetooth should be on and they should be near you.
However, by accessing your bluetooth, hackers could potentially download files from your device to theirs without your knowledge. This type of attack is more likely to occur in a crowded environment, while victims of such an attack are likely to be targeted, although victims can also be randomly selected in any crowded environment.
Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network exposes you to similar dangers. People managing your Wi-Fi connection, or anyone who has hacked into your network, could potentially gain access to your screen and even take control of your device. The answer is to turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them, and only connect to trusted networks.
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