Wednesday, November 30, 2022
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Virus alert!!

We live in an era where smartphones are all the craze. From calling your near and dear ones, to storing photographs, from shopping online to doing all your banking work, everything can be achieved with the touch of a button on this tiny device. However, with this little device come huge problems like getting hacked or catching a virus other than Covid-19. 

A hacked phone or virus infected phone can cause serious issues. The telltale signs of a hacked phone may be subtle, but the ramifications of not noticing them could be catastrophic.

How do you know if your phone has been targeted? 

What can you do about it?

How does a phone get infected with a virus?

Like computers, phones can be compromised by malware, popularly known as a virus. Typically, a phone virus works similarly to a computer virus where a malicious code infects your device, replicates itself and spreads to other devices in the form of an auto-message or auto-forwarded email using your contacts. 

A virus can reduce the functionality of your phone, It can access your personal information and even send it to hackers, It can also send spam emails and messages to your contact and infect their devices as well, It can spy on you by gaining access to your screen, camera and keyboard and even track your geographical location. 

 

How to know if your phone has been hacked or has a virus? 

Sometimes, precautions can be in vain and your phone may still become infected with a virus or get hacked. Here are a few signs to watch out for —

  1. Strange charges on your phone bill:  Unexpected charges on your monthly cellphone bill are often the cause of a virus. Malicious applications can make money by using your phone to send premium text messages or phone calls or excessive data usage (4G and 5G)

2. Contacts receiving strange messages: Malware can use your device to send spam texts to your contacts and infect their devices. Inform friends and family if you receive strange messages or calls coming from them and vice versa. 

3. Poor performance:  Slowdown in performance is a guarantee of infection. Apps taking longer than usual to open or crashing randomly. One of the most common phone hacked signs is a drop in performance because the malware is hogging your phone’s bandwidth or processing power. 

4. Excessive battery drain: Due to the malware constantly working in the background your phone battery drains faster than usual. There are a few ways to make your battery life last longer but if everything is normal otherwise, a shorter battery life is indicative of your phone being hacked. 

5. Your device overheating unexpectedly: Does your phone ever feel hot, even when you haven’t been actively using it? Phones can heat up if extensively used, but if it’s not you that is causing your phone to heat up, it may be a hacker. 

6. New applications:  If random new applications (apps) appear unexpectedly on your device, a malicious app could be downloading them onto your device. These apps may contain malware. One of the biggest signs a  hacker has accessed your phone may be the presence of apps you don’t recognize.

7. Noticeable reduction in battery life: Poor battery life could mean that you’re using a ‘buggy’ or badly-written app. However, it can also be a sign that your phone has a virus.

8. Service disruptions- While it isn’t uncommon to experience a dropped call or a bad connection here and there, if service disruptions become a regular feature chances are that your phone has been hacked. 

 

Hacking techniques —

How do hackers get access to your phone? They use a mixture of technology and social engineering tactics to exploit innocent cellphone users.

Here are some of the most common techniques hackers use to hack phones —

 

  1. Phishing-  Phishing is the practice of sending emails or phone calls pretending to be from reputable companies to get individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers and banking information. Phishing can be random or highly targeted like focusing on a specific high income person and getting them to reveal a lot of information, this is known as whaling.

2. Spy apps: One sneaky way to infect a phone with malware is to convince someone to download an app with hidden spy features. This app may be disguised as a game, shopping app, security app etc. The hackers gain access to all the information on your phone through these apps.

3. Bluetooth and Wi-fi- While it may make it easier to play music through a speaker, a wireless Bluetooth connection risks your phone to cyber crime. Hackers can use software to intercept a bluetooth signal and gain access to your phone. Don’t pair your phone with a device you don’t trust. Similarly, connecting to an unknown wifi network can give hackers easy access to your phone. 

 

What to do in the event of infection? 

If you find out that your phone has been hacked or has a virus, it needs to be addressed and fixed as soon as possible. Here are some simple troubleshooting steps —

  • Start off by restarting your phone and then switching the device to airplane mode. This will stop any malicious apps from receiving and sending data.
  • Secondly, check your most recently installed apps. Delete all the unknown apps on your phone. This should help delete the malware app.
  • To prevent further damage you’ll need to remove the malware. Use a reliable and  reputable antivirus app to scan your phone for infections. 
  • Clear your phone’s storage or browsing history and website data. 
  • As a last resort, you can back up all your data and perform a factory reset on your phone. Resetting a phone to its original settings will eliminate any malware.

 

Protecting your phone from infection

It is very important to safeguard your phone viruses and other security risks. 

  • You should avoid clicking unusual pop-ups or links in unfamiliar text messages, social media posts or emails. 
  • Only install apps that are authorised by the app stores.
  • Back up your data regularly. 
  • Keep your phone software updated to the latest version as it will have the latest security features. 
  • Continually monitor your phone for suspicious activity.
  •  Most importantly trust your gut, if you feel like your phone has been hacked, chances are it has been. 

With the majority of the world’s population owning a smartphone our dependence on them keeps growing.  These tiny but mighty devices have become an attractive avenue for scammers. 

So beware, stay vigilant and keep your phone safe!

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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