Help! I Opened A Phishing Email On My iPhone

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You’re casually browsing your email inbox on your iPhone and (without even thinking) you accidentally open an email that initially looks legit. However, upon closer inspection, you now suspect that it’s a malicious email.

Your fears are not misplaced – Google discovered over 2 million phishing websites in 2021. Hackers are at work trying to steal your information 24/7.

Don’t skip over this article if even if you think you might be safe. It is likely that some of your personal information is already exposed on the web. We’ll help determine if you’re at risk and tell you what to do to protect yourself.

How Spam and Phishing Emails Work

Amongst the 300 billion emails sent every day, there are malicious emails designed to steal user data such as username, passwords, credit card numbers, etc. These emails are popularly known as phishing emails.

Phishing emails are disguised as emails from genuine companies in order to trick you into thinking they are legitimate messages. The goal is to get you to open the email and follow the instructions in the email such as submitting a form with your personal information in it.

For example, a phishing email might send you to a page to “verify” your information – such as personal or financial information. Sometimes, a phishing email will not even require you to do anything but download an attachment.

Once the hackers have this information, they most often sell your information on the dark web to fraudsters. The fraudsters will then use your information to apply for credit cards and the like – raking up debt in your name and ruining your credit.

Some phishing emails are very sophisticated, and it is nearly impossible to tell that they are from hackers.

The best way to identify malicious sites is to use an identity theft protection service like Identity Guard, which gives you a safe browsing tool that will stop you even before you visit a malicious phishing site. They have protected over 47 Million people over 20+ years. 

To further protect you in case you’ve already given out your personal info, you’ll get:

  • A team monitoring the dark web for people selling your personal information, and alerting you if anything appears. 
  • Monitoring of your credit reports (fraud usually shows up on your credit reports and ruins your credit)
  • A personal case manager that can help you recover from any identity theft problems.

This means that your financial situation will remain SAFE EVEN IF fraudsters have your personal information (they won’t be able to get away with it).

Phishing is an increasing problem not only for businesses but also for many individuals. What many people do not realize is that the majority of malware is sent through email. The 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report found that credential theft and social attacks, which include phishing and business email compromise, cause 67% of the data breaches that took place in the past year.

I have an iPhone, Can I Get Hacked by Opening a Phishing Email?

The iPhone uses a unique operating system called iOS. Created by Apple, this operating system was marketed to be more secure than other mobile operating systems. Because of this, many iPhone users have a false sense of security that it is impossible for their iPhones to be hacked.

If you search online “Can you get a virus from opening an email on your iPhone?”, you will find user forums saying that it is rare for this to happen. However, more recent events proved this to be untrue.

So, can iPhones get viruses or malware? 

Yes, iPhones can be vulnerable to malware attacks and these can lead to data theft.

One of the most popular iPhone hacks that shocked the world was when the iPhone X of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was hacked. In January 2020, it was announced that a forensic study of Bezos’ iPhone revealed that the hack was caused by a video that was sent in 2018 through WhatsApp.

This video had a code of malware that gave the hackers access to Bezos’ texts and photos. So, if the iPhone of the wealthiest man in the world can be hacked, then it is not impossible for an average user to also fall victim to these attacks.

Another finding that challenged the security of iPhones was raised by cybersecurity firm ZecOps. According to the ZecOps report released in April 2020, the iPhone’s default Mail app is vulnerable to hackers due to bugs (error or flaw in a software).

The firm said that they noticed suspicious activity in the Mail app dating back to 2018 and after investigation, they found that an iPhone could be vulnerable if the user just opens the email on the app – even without clicking anything.

Unlike other phishing emails that require you to click a link or enter some information, the email that ZecOps encountered was an empty message. Once you open this message, it will cause the iPhone to crash so you would need to reboot.

The hackers will reportedly get access to your phone during the reboot and could take control of your device. ZecOps disclosed that this type of email hack victimized at least six high-profile individuals.

What to Do if You Accidentally Opened a Phishing Email on Your iPhone

Your information could now be exposed to others, so your first step should be to set up identity theft protection with services such as Identity Guard.

Here’s how they’ll help :

  • Monitor the dark web to see if your personal info has been exposed to fraudsters.
  • Monitor your credit (as fraud usually shows up on your credit report as new credit card, mortgage applications etc).
  • Set up alerts on your bank accounts for any suspicious transactions.

You’ll also get a $1 million insurance policy and stolen funds reimbursement so that you won’t be financially ruined even if something bad does happen.

Next, you’ll want to check that your devices are clean and report the suspected phishing site. Which one you should do depends on what actions you took leading up to this point:

Did you just open the email or did you click on it? Did you download an attachment? Did you actually enter any personal details like your username, email address, verification code, phone number, financial information, etc.?

If you just opened the phishing or spam email by mistake without clicking anything:

You’re probably wondering the steps involved in how to scan your iPhone for malware. If you are not sure whether your iPhone is compromised, follow the steps below.

  1. Check your phone for unfamiliar apps or downloads that happened recently.
  2. Delete these apps or downloads if you do not recall downloading or using them.
  3. Turn off background app refresh to minimize the risk of unwanted apps running without your action required. This will also save battery life.
  4. Change your passwords on your online and financial accounts linked to your iPhone.
  5. Monitor your phone for any change like apps not working properly or battery draining easily.
  6. If you see any of these phone issues, you can back up your data and do a factory reset on your iPhone. This will wipe all of the data on your phone. Be careful about restoring your backup again as your files may have been compromised already. If you used a backup and the same problem occurs, do another factory reset and download your apps again.
  7. Always update to the latest iOS version and latest apps because the newer versions usually fix any detected security bugs.

If you opened a phishing email and clicked on a link or downloaded an attachment:

  1. If you downloaded an attachment, immediately delete it from your phone.
  2. If you clicked on a link that redirected you to another website, close the website.
  3. As an added protection, wipe off the history of your browser on Chrome or Safari.
  4. Change your passwords in your online and financial accounts linked to your iPhone.
  5. Monitor your phone for any change like apps not working properly or battery draining easily then do a factory reset process if necessary.

If you opened a phishing email, clicked on a link, and took action by entering your financial details or login credentials:

Hackers often send phishing emails disguised as emails from banks or other companies requiring you to verify your financial information. Some emails will even look like a warning that your account has been compromised so you need to take immediate action by following the steps indicated.

However, these are often phishing emails created to gain access to your financial accounts.

  1. Change your passwords immediately on your financial accounts on your iPhone.
  2. Change your passwords on social media and other online accounts that may be linked to your Apple Pay, PayPal, or other money apps.
  3. Contact your bank or credit card provider to inform them of the possible breach. If you inform them as soon as possible, they could stop suspicious transactions from taking place.
  4. Regularly monitor your banking activity in the next few weeks to see whether there are suspicious transactions taking place. You can ask the bank to send you text notifications for any purchase so it will be easier for you to review any transaction. Be wary of small amount transactions because sometimes hackers will charge very small unnoticeable amounts like $1 to $2 repeatedly so you won’t notice but eventually this could add up.

If you opened a phishing email, clicked on a link, and took action by giving away personal details:

Some phishing emails are designed to dupe you into giving private personal information such as your full name, birth date, social security number, complete address, etc. Once the hackers gain your personal information, they can use this to perform fraudulent acts like get into your financial accounts or commit identity theft.

  1. If you’re worried that your Social Security Number is compromised, you can go to my Social Security webpage to check your account for any inconsistencies. You can also check our complete guide on “How to check if someone is using my Social Security Number for employment”.
  2. If you gave away your personal information and you are worried that you could be a victim of identity theft, you can go to identitytheft.gov, the U.S. government’s online portal where you can report such crimes.

Protect Your iPhone from Phishing Emails and Malware

In this day and age, no piece of technology is safe from malicious attacks- and that includes your iPhone. It is very important to protect your phone and yourself from being a victim of malware and phishing emails by always being wary of the messages you’re receiving.

Avoid opening or clicking on links in emails and messages from unknown sources. This will greatly minimize the risk of falling victim to a malware attack. You can also install antivirus apps for IPhones that can warn you in case there are any suspicious attacks.

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