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Is Your Phone Acting Funny…or Has It Been Hacked?

Young handsome man texting using smartphone over isolated background stressed with hand on head, shocked with shame and surprise face, angry and frustrated. Fear and upset for mistake.

What are the signs your phone has been hacked?

Near the city of Olympia, Washington, in October 2016, people in the region were calling 911 and hanging up before operators could answer the call. Then, the same phone would call 911 again. Over and over. Finally, an operator was able to answer one of the person’s calling in. “Don’t hang up!” she told the caller.

The teenage girl on the line said, “We didn’t mean to call 911! I’m not touching the phone. I’m not doing anything…and I don’t know how to make it stop!”

Her iPhone, and thousands of other smartphones, had been taken over with malware that started off as a bad prank initiated by a young college student in the area. He and a friend had “discovered a loophole in iPhone software” and designed a program to exploit it. The web link that took over the smartphone was clicked on almost 120,000 times…and each click generated dozens of fake emergency calls.

The attack spread to dozens of emergency call cents around the country, because wherever the person lived when they clicked on the link, it generated 911 calls to the closest center.

Cyberattack on smartphones.

Here is the issue. Your smartphone is essentially a phone plus a “web enabled computer”—That puts it at risk to be infected with malicious software (malware) just like a laptop computer. And that malware is created by a hacker, but is downloaded on smartphones by unsuspecting victims like you.

The hackers don’t steal your phone and physically downloaded malware—they don’t need to.

Instead, they have planted viruses on websites designed to infect smartphones. Then they get people to click on a link from their phones, which takes them to the website and the malware link. It’s as simple as that.

That’s what caused all the smartphones to start calling 911. Ordinary people simply clicked, without much thought or worry, on a link on someone’s Twitter feed, just like they do every day. But that click took them to the website that took over their phone. (The victims needed to turn off their phones to make the calls stop.)

Here are ways your phone can be hacked.

Your smartphone may have been hacked if you notice apps opening by themselves or if the battery drains much faster than normal. Here are ways that a hacker might try to trick you into giving up control of your smartphone:

Through messages from a hacked phone.

  • If you receive a text message from someone you know that starts off with strange characters or even odd shapes (squares, for example), it is most likely a text from a hacker who is hoping you’ll open it and read the message.
  • If you open the message, you will download spyware or malware on your phone. It’s that simple with smartphones—and hackers know it.
  • How did the hacker get your number? They probably first hacked the phone of a friend and are now exploiting their list of contacts. The hacker is using simple tricks to spread the virus from phone to phone.

Through unauthorized use of your phone…remotely.

  • Skilled hackers can take over a hacked smartphone and do everything from making overseas phone calls, sending texts, and using your phone’s browser to shop on the Internet. Since they’re not paying your smartphone bill, they don’t care about exceeding your data limits.
  • Do a phone check: You know your phone better than anyone else, so go through your pictures and texts and see if anything looks out of the ordinary. You’ll find out fast if someone else has been clicking your camera from a remote location.
  • Check your wireless account. If something seems out of the ordinary, check with your smartphone service provider. If your monthly bill and data usage tend to be the same each month, they’ll be able to recognize irregularities on your account. Be sure to go back a few months.

Service Disruptions.

  • If you are experiencing ticking sounds or other noises during calls, it could be a sign someone is attempting to access your phone. Abruptly dropped calls aren’t always the fault of your service provider…it could be an active hacking attempt.
  • If your service provider cannot provide an explanation as to why your phone is not working the way it normally does, it might point to a hacking attempt.

Take your phone in for a checkup.

If you think you might have malware on your smart phone, take it into a phone store for a complete diagnostic test. They should be able to detect and eliminate any malware installed on the phone.

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