What to Do if Your Phone is Hacked
Getting hacked is an annoying, intrusive, and possibly dangerous situation. It’s also increasingly frequent, as hackers around the globe are becoming ultra-sophisticated. After they have your data, there’s little you can do. So, you probably wondering what to do if your phone is hacked.
But, there are steps to perform ‘triage’ and get your data under control, steps to retrieve lost data, and steps to protect your data so that it’s never hacked again.
Help! I’ve Just Been Hacked!
After finding out you’ve just been hacked, it’s all about finding out exactly what is missing and what was taken.
- The moment you find out that your phone has been hacked, the first thing you should do is notify your financial institutions, including your bank, your credit card company, and any online savings or investment accounts. Phone hackers, just like regular internet hackers, are usually after your financial information. Cancel and reissue debit and credit cards.
- The second step is to notify your phone service provider. Use a different phone to call them, so that you can tell them exactly what’s happened. Start a fraud report and they can access your data to see what, if anything, has been hacked. Go through everything on your phone that you remember accessing in the past several days.
- The third step is to assess the true damage. This can also be done through the fraud department of your phone service provider. Some hackers are able to access all of your apps, your photos, your music, your Internet access (thus resulting in an online hacking as well), your texts, and part of or your entire phone history as well. The data could be still there but stolen, partially missing, or, in the most severe cases, completely wiped out.
- The fourth step is to go through each app on your phone to see what personal information could have been shared. The most popular pieces of information for hacking are:
- Your full name and any previous names
- Your phone number and address
- Your date of birth, age, gender, and social security number
- Your email addresses and passwords
- Your financial information (account numbers)
- Your user names and passwords and password hints
- Your text messages
- Your phone logs and contact lists
- Your actual voicemails
This information could possibly be used to hack into all of your online accounts as well, especially if your email addresses and passwords have been hacked.
- The fifth step to ‘triaging’ the actual hack is to change all of the usernames and passwords on the app accounts your phone accesses. This includes social media apps, your Google or Apple account, your email accounts, financial accounts, your phone service provider account, and any other accounts. Use very difficult passwords and don’t use the same one twice!
Retrieving Lost Data
Ouch, the damage was done, and the hackers took your data. You’re missing photos, texts, documents, and other information. The good news is, is that nearly every phone service provider keeps records. If you’ve not already done so, contact them and report your hack. Work with them to retrieve lost data.
Many cellphones automatically back up your data to cloud services like Google Drive, OneDrive, and the iCloud. Search your Apple, Google, and Windows accounts for backed-up data. You can also physically take both the battery and the SIM cards out of your phone to send to a cell service provider to retrieve lost data.
If the hack was severe and wiped out your phone, then you’ll need to get a new one. Get a new phone number at the same time as well, so that hackers can’t easily access your phone a second time.
Protect Your Data
The best way to prevent a future hacking is to protect your data. Choose complicated passwords and update them every six months, keeping them secure in an offline location. Copy your full phone contact list into a separate document, so you don’t lose phone numbers and names in the future. Create a regular backup schedule for your phone data. You might want to consider getting a new email address, too.
Your personal information is precious; don’t share personal information with anyone over the phone, in a text, or on the internet. Don’t let a website or app keep a form of payment on file; enter in your payment information every time you make a purchase. Keep track of your bank statements each month and watch for fraudulent charges. Often, you won’t know you’ve been hacked until several months later, when your identity is stolen, or you notice something strange with a website or app.
Protect your phone data by purchasing protection plans from your cell service provider. You can find apps that will also set higher security clearances. Research the ones that have high marks from other hacking victims.
Set higher security standards with the online browser you use on your phone, whether it’s Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, or another. Access your account online. Be aware that you can download viruses, malware, adware, and other harmful software on your phone just as easily as you can on a computer.
Be discerning about downloading apps, and only stick to ones you trust. It’s better to have fewer apps that are trustworthy. The ‘free’ version might come with malware. Whatever app you download, keep in mind it might ask permission to have access to your data.
Your Phone is Actually a Computer
Your cellphone is actually a miniature computer you carry around all day. As such, when you get hacked, it’s very similar to experiencing the computer version. You can’t help that the hackers got your data, but you can help yourself in the future. Even some of the largest and seemingly most secure national companies experience hacking. Hackers are extremely good, and their skills improve with each passing month.
Getting hacked is invasive. Somebody now has your most personal information. The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of what apps and accounts have what data of yours, and then seek ways to protect that data.