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Safety & security

7 ways someone can hack your phone

Any American without a mobile device is in the minority. Only 3% of Americans don’t own a cellphone, the Pew Research Center says. Mobile devices play a central role in our daily tasks, as conduits for alarms, messaging, navigation and even grocery shopping.

They’ve come a long way from phones of the past. Tap or click here for 10 valuable tips and tricks hiding in your phone’s accessibility settings. However, there’s a downside to all its rapid growth: Criminals want a piece of the pie.

The RSA says 70% of online fraud is done through mobile platforms. A single fumble of your finger against a dangerous hyperlink could download malware that locks you out of your phone, so you must be careful. Here are seven ways cybercriminals try to break into your phone.

1. In-person hacks

Not all attacks are made remotely. One man forced his way into his sleeping girlfriend’s phone. She used facial recognition to open her phone, so he drugged her, lifted her eyelids and held the phone up to her face. Once the phone unlocked, he stole almost $24,000 and blew it all gambling, the Daily Mail reports.

As you can tell, camera ID can be easy to fool. That’s why we recommend using passcodes or pattern locks to protect your phone. Tap or click here to password-protect individual apps.

2. Stalkerware

One creepy trend is stalkerware. That’s when someone installs an app on your phone to track you. These apps provide your stalker access to the GPS location of your device, along with images, call logs, images and even your browser history.

Since these tools are designed to be hidden, it can be difficult to spot them. Checking your battery should be your first step if you think your phone is compromised. Reduced battery life could mean a secret app is running in the background. Tap or click here for six more signs your phone has stalkerware — and what you can do about it.

3. Bad downloads

Treat your phone with the same caution you would your computer. You may download a PDF or some other document with malicious code embedded in it.

Just like with a computer, don’t download anything you didn’t request or that you aren’t 100% sure is safe. This is especially true with unsolicited text messages and emails. If you don’t know the sender, there’s a chance the links inside the message are malicious.

4. Bad apps

Not all apps in your smartphone’s official store are safe. Some are infected with malware. Online fraud is skyrocketing thanks to phony apps.

Follow these steps to avoid downloading fake apps on your iPhone and Android:

  • Head to your bank’s official website to download the banking app: There are too many fake banking apps designed to look just like the real deal. Look up any bank in your app store and you may see copycats. They’re hard to spot, so take this extra step.
  • Don’t use third-party app stores: They don’t have the same protections as official app stores.
  • Read the reviews first: Once it’s been discovered, other users will let you know if an app is malicious.
  • Never click links or open attachments in unsolicited emails and texts: This is a recipe for malware.

Earlier this year, cybersecurity experts spotted a fake VPN app that scammed users out of $1 million in a single month. If you have this app on your phone, delete it now. Tap or click here to find out how the scam worked and how you can protect yourself.

5. SIM swapping

Hackers will target anything, even your SIM card. That’s the little chip inside your smartphone the cell network uses to identify your device. In SIM-swapping scams, criminals contact your mobile phone carrier and pretend to be you.

They say your phone is lost or stolen and ask to activate a new phone. This is easy: They just need to answer a few security questions to pass the identity checks. Your phone carrier then deactivates your SIM card and sends your calls and texts to the scammer’s phone.

It’s scarily easy for scammers to trick your mobile phone carrier. They can collect your private information in many different ways, like:

Your phone will stop working, and you’ll get a “No Service” message. To prevent the scam from getting this far, use two-factor authentication, never overshare online and create a PIN for your mobile account.

6. Bluetooth

Bluetooth vulnerabilities are another way hackers can waltz into your phone to steal data. Here’s how it works: When you turn on the Bluetooth setting, your phone broadcasts a device identifier called a MAC address. It’s how your phone can connect to your earbuds or car, for example.

Hackers can intercept that address and inject your phone with a custom code that takes over your device. Luckily, stopping the hackers is as simple as turning Bluetooth off.

Another good rule of thumb is to forget previous Bluetooth devices you paired with since you may find a hacker’s device on your list of connected gadgets. Also, make sure to update your Android or iPhone whenever you can since cybersecurity officials are constantly patching these vulnerabilities.

7. Public charging ports

When your smartphone runs out of juice, USB power plugs can come to the rescue. There’s just one problem: Hackers can use them to steal your data.

That’s why you should get a USB data blocker, which stops the risk of phone infections or malware injections. It stops data pins, so your data isn’t flowing into the outlet while charging your gadget. Tap or click here to learn more about tech security products everyone should own.

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