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How to know if your phone is hacked

Private data stored on our smartphones is worth a lot to hackers and scammers. The FBI reports that it saw a record number of cybercrime reports in 2021, with potential losses exceeding $6.9 billion. If a scammer wants to defraud you, hacking your phone is worth the effort. For extra protection and peace of mind, you should install a solid security app such as Clario to monitor your email and online accounts for breaches 24/7.

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Is your phone acting strangely? Are you suffering poor performance for no apparent reason, seeing random popups on your screen, or noticing outgoing calls or text messages that shouldn’t be there? These are just some of the signs your phone has been hacked.


If you have malware, spyware, or any other malicious software running on your phone, it could be exposing your data to cybercriminals without your knowledge. It could even be running up excessive charges on your phone bill to steal your cash.


Read on to find how to tell if your phone is hacked, how to fix it, and for ways to prevent an attack from occurring in the first place.

How to tell if your phone is hacked

If you think your smartphone may have been targeted by hackers, you shouldn’t just ignore it. It’s important that you find out for certain and then, if necessary, take the right steps to protect your data. So, how do you find out if someone hacked your phone? It may be obvious — you may see strange popups or you may find that apps are continually crashing — but some hacks are a little more difficult to detect.


Here are some of the signs your phone is hacked.

Battery drainage

Is your smartphone’s battery seemingly running out faster than before, or not lasting as long as you think it should. This could be a sign that malicious applications like spyware are quietly running in the background when your phone should be idle. Here’s how to check your battery usage statistics on both Android and iOS:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap Battery
Settings on iOS > Battery
Settings on Android > Battery and device care

In this menu, you will see a graph that shows how your battery has been used over time, and which apps have consumed the most energy. Keep an eye on those at the top of the list to ensure that the biggest battery hogs are not malicious applications.

Sluggish performance

You may find that you’re not getting the level of performance you would expect from your device. Perhaps apps aren’t as snappy as they should be, games don’t run properly, or you experience constant crashes. This could suggest that malware is hogging your system resources and preventing other apps from running properly.

Excessive data usage

Since spyware and other malicious apps often send information back to a remote server, they will eat up your smartphone’s data allowance pretty quickly. If you find you’re running out of data faster than normal, malware could be the cause.

Unfamiliar outgoing calls and texts

Have you started noticing unfamiliar outgoing calls and text messages on your phone? This is a common symptom of certain malware apps, which will use your device to call or text premium-rate numbers. You may also notice excessive charges on your bill while the hackers collect your hard-earned cash.

Strange popups

One of the most obvious signs of a smartphone hack are strange popups that appear randomly when you’re using your device. It’s not uncommon to see popups while you’re browsing the web — even when your phone has not been hacked — but if they appear on trusted websites or while you’re doing other things on your device, it could be a sign that malicious software has been installed.

Unusual account activity

If you spot unusual activity on accounts linked to your smartphone, it could be a sign that hackers are using those accounts through your device. This activity commonly includes strange emails and messages sent from apps like WhatsApp and Facebook.

What to do if your phone is hacked

Discovering that your phone is hacked can be daunting, and it’s important that you take steps to rectify it immediately. However, it does not mean that you need to throw out your current phone and buy a new one — or seek professional help. By following some simple steps, you should be able to remove any malicious apps by yourself.


Here’s what you should do if you know your phone is hacked.

Use an antivirus app

One easy way to rid your phone of malware and other dangerous apps is to use an antivirus service like Clario. Clario will scan your phone for any malicious files that shouldn’t be there, then help you remove them as quickly and as safely as possible.


Here’s how to install and get started with Clario on your phone.

  1. Download Clario from the App Store on iOS or Google Play Store on Android
  2. Create an account or sign in with Apple or Google
  3. Tap Device
  4. Tap the Start scan button to scan your device for malicious software
  5. Follow the onscreen prompts to delete anything that shouldn’t be installed
Clario app > Device > Start Scan

Tell your contacts

The first thing you should do after discovering that your phone has been hacked is tell your contacts. There’s a good chance they may have received a message from your device which could contain malicious content, so it’s important to notify them so they are not subjected to the same infection.


Next, you can focus on getting your own device back on track.

Delete suspicious apps

Go into your app drawer on Android or your App Library on iOS and look for any apps that seem suspicious. This includes anything you know you did not install yourself — and especially anything you downloaded from a third-party source. You’ll need to look carefully because malicious apps will sometimes pose as genuine apps.


It’s important to check the app drawer and App Library because apps won’t always appear on your device’s home screen. Uninstall anything that doesn’t look right, and anything you don’t need, by touching and holding the app’s icon, then selecting Uninstall or Remove App.


On Android, it’s possible for apps to be hidden from the app drawer so that they’re more difficult to detect, so you’ll need to dig a little deeper. Follow the steps below, but note that menus may be a little different depending on which Android device you have:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap Apps
  3. Tap Manage apps

Scroll through the list of installed apps carefully and look for anything that seems suspicious. To remove something, first select it, then tap Uninstall. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that you may also see features in this list that were preinstalled with Android or by your device manufacturer to support some of your phone’s built-in functions. Avoid removing anything that is required by your device.

Perform a factory reset

To be completely certain that any hacks or malicious apps are removed from your phone, you should perform a factory reset. This will restore your device’s software to its original, “out of the box” state, as if it was brand new. However, this process will also remove all your data as well as any installed apps, so be sure to back up all your information before you begin a factory reset. You won’t be able to get it back later.


To back up your iPhone, you can either plug it into your computer and create a local backup, or you can back up to iCloud. On Android, your phone’s manufacturer will likely have included a cloud backup feature, which you’ll be able to access inside the Settings app.


After you’ve performed a complete backup and plugged your phone into a power source to ensure it doesn’t run out of battery halfway through the reset process (that wouldn’t be good), follow the steps below to wipe it.

On Android

Again, note that the process may be a little different depending on which Android device you’re using.

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Reset
  4. Select Reset all settings
  5. Confirm by tapping the Reset settings button

You may be prompted to enter your phone’s passcode, or the password for your account, to continue the process.

On iPhone

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Transfer or Reset iPhone
  4. Select Erase All Content and Settings
  5. Tap Continue
  6. Follow the onscreen prompts to continue

How to prevent your phone from being hacked

Now that your phone is free from malware and running as it should be, it’s time to think about protecting it so that it does not become infected again in the future. No matter how careful you may be, there’s always a chance that you could pick up another malicious app in the future. But you can greatly reduce the risk.


Here are some precautions every smartphone user should take to bolster their protection:

  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks without a VPN (virtual private network)
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) on all accounts that support it
  • Do not store passwords in plain text on your phone — use a secure password manager instead
  • Do not download apps from untrusted third-party sources
  • Install the latest software and security updates as soon as they’re available
  • Don’t visit suspicious websites or click on suspicious links

If you’re worried that remembering all these things may be difficult, or you’ve already followed these steps and still succumbed to malware, you may want to make use of a dedicated protection service such as Clario.


Designed for both desktop and mobile devices, Clario gives you peace of mind by greatly improving your privacy and security. It blocks popups and trackers that collect data about your browsing habits, scans your phone for malicious apps that shouldn’t be there, and provides an unlimited VPN that allows you to conceal everything you do online so that no one else can see what you’re up to.


What’s more, Clario offers 24/7 expert support, so if you do run into trouble there’s always someone to help out, and it’s super easy to set up.

Can my phone camera be hacked?

Although hackers will usually target your data rather than your phone’s camera, certain spyware applications have been known to use cameras and microphones to keep tabs on a user. So, how do you check if your phone’s camera has been hacked? There are a number of things to look out for.


Firstly, check your camera roll or gallery app for mysterious images and videos that you weren’t expecting. This could suggest that a malicious application has been using your camera in the background. You can also play around inside your camera app to ensure that all features work correctly, and performance is as expected.


If you’re using a recent iOS or Android release on your smartphone, you may also be able to keep an eye on camera usage. Phone makers have begun to add indicators to the status bar that show when your phone’s camera or microphones are active. They should only appear when you’re consciously using these features.


Android users may also want to download a spyware-detection tool from the Google Play Store that will help them identify any malicious apps that shouldn’t be installed.

Can a phone number be hijacked?

Believe it or not, it is possible for hackers to hijack your phone number. It’s not very common since this is a difficult process that requires the hacker to contact your service provider and request that the number be transferred to another device. But if a hacker has already gained access to your phone, they may have secured the information they need to pass your carrier’s security checks — such as your home address, date of birth, and Social Security number.


Why would someone want to steal your phone number? Many websites now use two-factor authentication (2FA) by default, which means that when you try to sign in or reset your password, they send you a code by text message that you must enter correctly to proceed. Once a hacker has hijacked your phone number, they will be able to receive these codes and gain access to even your most secure accounts.


If you know your phone has been hacked, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. It won’t just mean your data and accounts are compromised, but it could also lead to expensive phone bills — and it could affect your contacts as well. As soon as you have detected someone is hacking your phone, you should deal with it immediately.

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