We rely on our phones for almost everything. They have our emails, schedules, social media accounts, bank details, and other personal data.
It’s a treasure trove for thieves looking for their next victim of identity fraud and scams. They use various tactics to steal your information, including exploiting text messages.
Can someone hack your phone by texting you? Not necessarily.
Below, we discuss how hackers can steal information from your phone–including a telling sign that most people tend to ignore. So, stick with us until the end and avoid falling victim to their tricks.
How can someone hack you by text message?
Thieves can’t hack you simply by sending you an SMS, but it depends on your next action. What you do with a text message aimed at hacking you can make all the difference.
Here are a few ways that hackers can get access to your phone and how you can protect yourself.
Phishing is one of the most common methods of hacking. Thieves use social engineering techniques to lure you into clicking their links that direct you to their phishing websites.
Some of these tactics include making you believe that a certain text message came from a legitimate institution like your bank or the government.
If you click on the link, they will ask for your personal details. Since these websites aren’t encrypted, they get to access your data on their end.
To avoid phishing websites from text messages, you must check if the sender of the text message if it’s legitimate.
Some phishing text messages come from random regular numbers, while others look quite similar to the real ones.
For example, the sender might appear to be WELLS FARG0 instead of WELLS FARGO.
Most people don’t notice the slight difference in spelling, which is a telling sign of a phishing text message.
It’s also important to be careful with any links included in the message. Phishing through SMS won’t succeed unless you click on their links.
Also, remember that authorized messages from legitimate institutions won’t also ask for personal details through text messages.
If you suspect that you receive a phishing text message, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
2. Public Networks
Connecting to public networks, such as Wi-Fi at coffee shops, malls, restaurants, or retail stores is not secure.
Hackers can get hold of your personal information, including your mobile number. Then, they can send you spam texts and trick you into giving more details that they can exploit.
You must avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi. But if you must, you have to ensure not to access important websites or apps, such as online banking or email. You should also use a VPN. A VPN creates a virtual private network and hides your true IP address and location, so thieves won’t be able to intercept your online activities.
This is to ensure that you’re not passively giving away your details to someone who’s probably hacking public networks.
Keylogger, or also known as a keystroke logger, is an application used to monitor each keystroke on your phone.
This application can be installed without your knowledge if you unsuspectedly click on an attachment on a fraudulent email. It could also be installed through phishing when they use social engineering techniques that would get you to click on a link.
If there’s one on your phone, hackers could have recorded your activities, including passwords of your accounts.
You can avoid unknowingly installing keyloggers by checking if the attachment is really meant for you. You must not open any attachments you get from suspicious emails.
Just like keyloggers, spyware is used to monitor your movement to get information, such as your passwords. The difference is that spyware would activate your device’s camera or microphone to get information.
Spywares can store these gathered data and use it to hack your accounts, such as social media, banks, and email. With the amount of data that this spyware could gather, your identity is at risk.
You can install anti-virus and anti-spyware applications on your phone to stay safe from spyware.
For iPhones, some of the most trusted anti-spyware apps are McAfee, Mobile Security & Anti-Theft Protection for iPhones, and Lookout.
For Android phones, some of the highly rated apps are Certo Mobile Security, Protectstar AntiSpy & Spyware Scanner, and Incognito Spyware Detector.
5. SS7 Vulnerabilities
SS7, or Signaling System 7, allows networks to communicate with each other. Basically, it’s what makes our calls and text messages possible.
However, if a hacker is able to hack into an SS7 network, they could easily intercept calls and messages, which can be used for data collection.
Although this type of technique might be helpful when it comes to national security, it could still be malicious when the wrong people are able to execute this.
One of the ways you can protect yourself from SS7 vulnerability is by enabling multi-factor authentication.
Having different authentication methods can help reduce SS7 attacks. Apart from passwords and one-time PIN via SMS, you may consider adding other authentication processes when accessing your accounts. This could be a one-time PIN via email, security questions, and even biometrics if the app permits.
6. SIM swapping
If you’re familiar with change-of-address scams, sim swapping is similar to that.
Basically, a fraudster will request your mobile service provider to transfer your mobile number to a different sim card. They could easily say that the mobile phone was misplaced or lost. Or they could say that the sim card is broken.
If they’re able to transfer your number to a different sim card, then they have full access to your number. The usual protocol is to disable the old sim and activate the new one.
Sim swapping is possible if the fraudster already has your personal information. They can swap your sim personally by going to your provider, or they can do it from their home using your personal data.
What’s threatening about sim swapping is that the criminal already has your personal data. If they have your mobile number as well, they can access your accounts even if they have two-factor authentication through SMS. It means they can also receive the other authentication and access your accounts.
You can prevent sim swapping by:
- Protecting your phone and sim
Hackers can resort to old-school techniques of stealing your sim card or your phone. Even though your phone is locked, they can request a transfer of sim and make it seem that your phone was stolen or lost.
- Locking your mobile number with your provider
Most providers offer protection for their consumers that prevents unauthorized transfer of their mobile numbers. The lock usually works through a PIN. And the transfer will only be possible if the hacker knows your PIN. Otherwise, they won’t be able to execute the sim swapping.
You must create a PIN that’s not easy to guess. That means it shouldn’t contain your birthdate or any number combination that can be associated with you easily.
What are the signs that your phone is hacked?
If you weren’t able to prevent being hacked, you should at least know the signs that your phone has already been compromised.
Here are a few things to watch out for:
Phone battery drains too quickly
If there’s malware, spyware, or any type of application that intends to harvest data from your phone, they usually use a lot of power.
Your phone runs unusually slowly
It’s normal for phones to run slowly when there are too many apps installed or the memory is low.
But if you’re not using that many apps or if you haven’t installed anything new, and your phone runs slower than usual, then there could be a malicious app installed on it.
You notice unfamiliar apps installed on your phone
If you see an unfamiliar app that you don’t remember installing, that could be an app by hackers. You must uninstall it immediately.
You have text messages you didn’t send
If you see text messages that you didn’t send or call logs that you didn’t make, your phone might have been compromised.
You may also see weird activities on your other accounts, such as emails, social media accounts, and chat apps.
Unexplainable spikes in data usage
Your phone might have been hacked if you notice sudden spikes in data usage that you can’t explain. This could mean that hackers might have installed malware or spyware that’s running in the background and that requires data usage to transfer information.
Someone can’t hack your phone by simply texting you. But what you do next with that suspicious message can allow them to.
Hackers always find new ways to get into people’s mobile phones for their own gain. What you can do to prevent it from happening is to be cautious, especially when you receive suspicious text messages.
It pays to be vigilant nowadays. Your best protection, even though there are many apps available out there, is still yourself. It’s important to secure your devices, create strong passwords, enable multi-factor authentication, and not just click any links you receive. You must also not let random people borrow your phone.