How to know you've been hacked on mobile

Smartphone displaying skull and crossbones on screen.
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Mobile devices are an indispensable part of our lives these days. However, while they offer connectivity and convenience, they are also a popular target for baddies who are after your info. If a malicious threat makes its way onto your phone, your personal information, such as credit card and bank details, social security number, and contact details can be compromised – or even leaked onto the dark web

If you're noticing your device isn't working as expected, ruling out a hack is essential. In this guide, I’ll delve into the warning signs of a hacked phone so that you can, at all times, stay safe and protected.

1. High data usage 

The first thing you may notice is extraordinary data usage. Hackers often install malware on your phone, requiring huge amounts of data to track your activities in the background or send your data to the server. 

You can check your data usage from your phone settings to identify unexplained usage. Streaming apps like Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, and the like usually use a high amount of data. However, if you notice that another app is using excessive data, it could be a sign that something is wrong.

2. Extreme battery usage

If your phone usage habits haven't changed, but your battery is draining faster than it normally does, it could be a concern. Malware or other malicious software operating in the background can eat up your device’s battery, causing your phone to drain faster and heat up even while you’re not using it. 

To find the culprit, open settings and go to battery to check your battery health and battery usage graph. Next, look for anything unusual, such as an unwanted app drawing a lot of power. You can uninstall the app, force-stop it, or reboot your phone.  

Malware on phone

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3. Sluggish performance

If you find sudden changes in your mobile, such as slow apps, malfunctioning games, or frequent crashes, it could be telling you that there's malware on your device. Malware will usually use up your device resources and affect the performance of other apps. 

For example, hackers have been known to use excessive resource processes on your device to mine cryptocurrency. So, it’s important to check the apps on your system frequently, the storage they use, and how much free space is available on your device. If you still can’t identify the cause, it’s possible that your phone is hacked.

4. Apps, calls or texts you don’t recognize

Protect your number

You can add your number to the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. It’s illegal for telemarketers to contact you once your number is on this free directory. Other countries worldwide have similar options.

Look for any random app you didn’t download, unauthorized emails, texts, purchases, and robocalls—if you find anything, it's a red flag. Avoid taking calls from unknown numbers unless you are expecting a call or can confirm the caller's identity. 

Did you know that a hacked Android phone or iPhone can send text messages to all of its contacts? If someone you know has been hacked, your phone number could be next on the list. Moreover, if any of your contacts complain about a suspicious message received from your device, it could be a sign that your phone is hacked.

5. Pop-ups

Are you being bombarded with unwanted pop-ups while using your browser? If so, your phone might be hacked. Inappropriate content or flashy ads can be indicators of malware in your device. When you see a pop-up, make sure not to click on any links and carefully close the window. 

Although not all pop-ups suggest malware, if you notice an increase in pop-ups, it could be a sign of adware. An adware will prompt you to click on malicious links or redirect you to various sites to generate revenue through clicks. 

Another clue is any configuration changes that you didn’t make. Furthermore, avoid entering your password or credit card details on sites that look suspicious.

6. Unusual activity on social media accounts

If you get alerts about any unusual activities in your social media accounts, such as unexpected posts, messages, or other activities, your device and account are at risk.

These may include new posts from your account that you didn’t create, messages sent to others from your account you didn’t send, or unusual login attempts from a different device. Also, look out for verification emails notifying you that you've signed up for new accounts you don't recognize. 

Bottom line 

The above are some of the most common signs of a hacked phone, but that's not all—there are other signs like software and hardware crashes, microphone or camera turning on automatically, getting locked out of your accounts, and many more. 

If you notice any of these, take immediate action and use tools like antivirus software and malware detection tools. Run a few scans, and if there’s any threat detected, remove it. 

Krishi Chowdhary

Krishi is a VPN writer covering buying guides, how-to's, and other cybersecurity content here at Tom's Guide. His expertise lies in reviewing products and software, from VPNs, online browsers, and antivirus solutions to smartphones and laptops. As a tech fanatic, Krishi also loves writing about the latest happenings in the world of cybersecurity, AI, and software.