May 20, 2014

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Has Your Smartphone Been Hacked?

56% of all American adults now have smartphones. We want these gadgets with us all the time. Why? Because they help us navigate our world. They take high-quality pictures. They allow us to access news, entertainment, and games––so many fun games! They seamlessly connect us to Facebook, allowing us to share photos and status updates with friends and family.

Smartphones make us feel connected to the world. I know that if I leave my iPhone out of reach for more than 10 minutes I start getting a little antsy, like I’m missing something important.

Your Personal Data

However, smartphones also contain a lot of personal data. PINs, passwords, credit card numbers; you name it, I probably have it stored on my smartphone. While it makes using my phone more convenient, it also appeals to hackers who can infect your phone with a virus designed to steal personal information.

What Are The Signs?

If your smartphone has been infected, it may show sudden erratic behavior that affects your calls, texts, and apps. Some viruses hide in the “background” and are harder to detect.

Other signs to watch for are shorter than normal battery life, unauthorized charges to your credit card account, sudden data usage increases, the phone operating more slowly than usual, or the programs stall or seem unresponsive.

What To Do If You Are Hacked

If a hacker does gain control of your smartphone they can send texts, make calls, or access the Internet via your phone. This will leave a history, so if you see signs of activity that you did not initiate, somebody could be controlling your phone remotely. Notify your service provider immediately and take the phone to a retail location to have them perform a diagnostic test. They may want to restore the phone to its factory settings so make sure you regularly back up your phone to avoid losing what you have stored on the phone.

How Can I Keep My Phone Safe?

The best advice is to keep your software up to date. Pay attention to notifications about software updates and always install them as soon as they are available. Regularly review your credit card statements and bank account balances that you may have linked to mobile apps. Monitor your credit report. Don’t download apps from unknown sources or companies that contact you. When in doubt, take the time to visit the game maker’s web site to make sure the app, and the company, is legit.

Changing your account passwords every three months can also help you stay safer. And of course, make sure you keep your phone locked with a PIN so if your phone is stolen the thief will be locked out.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Kārlis Dambrāns.

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Heidi Daitch

Director, Strategic Programs at IdentityForce
Heidi is a busy working mom who juggles many of the same responsibilities and challenges at home and at work - a long list of things to do and not enough time to do everything. With so little time, Heidi tries hard to find simple, but effective strategies to save time for what’s really important – spending time with her family.
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