Signs & Symptoms of a Hacked Smartphone

By Andy Warycka

Sudden erratic behavior is often a sign of smartphone hacking.
i Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Mobile phone hacking is on the rise, with a U.N. group noting in 2013 that over half a billion phones were susceptible to SIM hacks alone, so it’s important to know when you’ve been hit by malware. Most hacking efforts leave traces, whether they are trying to eavesdrop, track you or eat up your data plan for their own use. Some of these signs and symptoms can be traced to innocuous reasons, but many lead directly to one conclusion: your phone is being used without your consent.

Resource Theft

Sudden and excessive battery drain is one indicator of a hacked phone. Mobile data, either via Wi-Fi or cellular signal, uses a large amount of battery power. If a hacker is monitoring your phone remotely or downloading data from it, your wireless connection will be more active and your battery will drain faster. Similarly, if you see a degradation in performance, check to see what apps are running. When malware is running in the background and sending data, it will use processor cycles and memory.

Strange Usage

GPS-enabled phones offer hackers a way to track your phone -- and you -- by keeping the GPS running at all times. If you see the GPS-enabled icon running constantly on your phone and your map and navigation apps are fully closed, you may be infected. Your phone’s Bluetooth functionality may be used to track your phone as well. If Bluetooth is enabled and you don’t even own a headset, turn it off immediately.

Dropped Calls and Disruptions

Malware that compromises your phone to eavesdrop on calls can cause a large number of dropped calls and service disruptions. If you notice an increased number of dropped calls from areas you previously had no service issues with, it could be a sign of hacking. A phone that sends text messages of its own accord, or suddenly receives an influx of odd text messages from unknown senders is another sign of hacking.

Check Your Bill

Many people pay their phone bill every month without taking a second glance at the details, but if the amount seems to be going up every month, take a minute to look through your charges. Often a phone is made to automatically dial 900 numbers and long-distance numbers without you ever knowing it until you look at the bill. So if you notice an increase in the number of calls to Fiji -- and you don’t know anyone there -- it may be time to wipe your phone.