- Your iPhone can be hacked, though it isn't very common, and iPhones are safer than Androids.
- To protect your iPhone, don't click on suspicious links or give out your personal information.
- If your iPhone has been hacked, you might need to factory reset it or get a replacement.
iPhone hacks aren't incredibly common, but they can still occur if you aren't careful.
From malware and trickster apps downloaded from the App Store to targeted attacks on a specific device, your information can be stolen in myriad ways.
Hacking occurs when someone else gains access to private information on your device or controls it without your consent. It's a broad term, and lies on a gradient of bad to very serious.
Here we'll break down the common types of hacks, how to tell if you've been hacked, and what to do about it.
1. Keep your iPhone up-to-date
It is generally sound advice to always keep your devices up to date with security patches.
This, too, holds true for iOS software updates. The updates include fixes for vulnerabilities that could open your iPhone up to hackers.
2. Avoid clicking suspicious links
Just like on your computer, your iPhone can be hacked by clicking on a suspicious website or link. If a website looks or feels "off" check the logos, the spelling, or the URL.
Try to avoid connecting to a password-free public Wi-Fi network, which opens the possibility of a hacker accessing unencrypted traffic on your device or redirecting you to a fraudulent site to access login credentials. It is best to also consider messages from numbers you don't recognize as suspect —so don't click any links you get from spam texts.
Fortunately, modern smartphones are good at resisting malware and ransomware, which lowers the risk of hacking.
3. Don't download shady apps
Apple devices exist in a much more closed and monitored digital ecosystem when compared to Android devices. This keeps them typically much safer as Apple screens apps; however, the process isn't bulletproof.
Ning Zhang, who leads the Computer Security and Privacy Laboratory at Washington University in Saint Louis, says to watch out for apps that ask for more information than they'll need to function.
For example, if you've downloaded a wallpaper or flashlight app and it's asking for your location or contact list, camera, or microphone, that's a red flag. Likely, the developers are tricking you into giving out this information so it can be sold.
"I'd be a little bit skeptical about it and consider if I really want that wallpaper app," Zhang says. "Being vigilant, even with official apps, is helpful. If we are able to do that, I think for the average person, you should be fairly safe."
4. Use a strong password
If you backup your phone in iCloud, make sure to have a strong password. If someone gets ahold of your password, they don't even need to hack your phone because they can download a backup from the cloud.
Turning on Apple's two factor authentication is another good way to stay safe and can prevent your iCloud account (Apple ID) from being hacked by requiring another step of verification.
Vyas Sekar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, says staying safe is all about "good digital hygiene."
"Install apps from trustworthy sources and unless you know what you're doing, you probably don't want to jailbreak your phone," Sekar said. "Be careful. Don't click on attachments you don't want to open and keep your phone up to date."
5. Don't jailbreak your iPhone
Jailbreaking your iPhone refers to removing the software restrictions imposed on iOS. While this has appeal to some people, it also opens you up to potential vulnerabilities in the software because you've eliminated some of Apple's existing security measures.
It is possible to download incompatible spyware or malware apps on a jailbroken phone, and this is also how remote takeovers can occur with iPhones. A jailbroken phone should be avoided as it can dangerously allow malicious apps to go undetected.
6. Be wary of intimate partner hacks
Abusive partners can grab your phone and download spyware (or stalkerware) when you're not looking. This malicious software can be used to track your location, or make private information like texts, your call history, and emails accessible to them.
All they need is your password and physical access to your phone. Experts we spoke to said that this is unfortunately common. This abuse can be psychologically traumatizing and devastating to someone's personal and public life. If you notice apps that you don't remember downloading, this could be a sign — although many times the spyware app is invisible on the home screen.
Sadly, this problem isn't easy to fix. Victims can risk their safety by deleting the apps or checking for malware if and when abusers notice these actions.
7. Watch out for targeted attacks
The average person probably won't be singled out and remotely targeted by hackers because it's expensive, sometimes costing millions for hacks of newer phones, says Matthew Green, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Internet Security Institute.
Journalists and activists are most at risk for this kind of hack. One form of a targeted hack works like this: Hackers exploit unknown flaws in the iOS programming that even its developers don't yet know about. With this knowledge, hackers can install malware to get data from targeted sources.
"This is a very sophisticated set of hacks and oftentimes you won't even know this happened to you," Green says. "If it's someone who is really sophisticated, they'll send you an invisible text message and then your phone is going to be compromised for awhile."
The bugs are known as "zero-day" exploits, corresponding with the fact that Apple will find out about a possible security issue in their software on the same day it'll work to patch it. The minute the world knows, it's only a matter of time before the hack is obsolete. That's why these pricey hacks are often kept under wraps by the people, or governments, who purchase them, Green says.
The NSO Spyware group's Pegasus malware is a particularly nasty example, but these kinds of hacks are generally reserved for those nation states consider to be high value targets.
How to tell if your iPhone has been hacked
You can't always tell if your iPhone has been hacked, Sekar says. But you may notice a few things.
- Your phone is unusually hot, or frequently dying.
- Your phone is sluggish when trying to load websites.
- The battery is draining even when you're not touching your phone.
These symptoms indicate the phone is running all the time, even when you're not using it. Sometimes, the best indicators come from the outside, such as when friends say they're getting odd messages from you. However, the most sophisticated hacks can be somewhat invisible.
There's no definite way to check for every type of hack. Experts told us that one reliable way to investigate is to download a mobile security app called iVerify, which scans your phone's operating system for suspicious behavior and can also detect if your phone has been jailbroken.
What to do when your iPhone has been hacked
For minor problems, like an app stealing your information, delete the app and update your software. In serious cases, you'll want to wipe your iPhone and restore it to factory settings. But even if you do that, it may note be completely clear if you've gotten rid of the malware installed on your phone — especially if it has been jailbroken.
Finding an expert for inspection may be the best solution, and your phone can't always be cured.
"I hate to say this, but if you really, really need to be safe, get a new phone," Green says. "If somebody actually gets on your phone, and it's a really high barrier for iPhones, they can install stuff like keyloggers, which means every key press, every letter you type in is being sent to somebody. Until you're sure that's gone, you can't be sure you have any privacy."
If you can't get a new phone right away, a hacked iPhone is likely not safe to use, so you're best to leave it turned off.
Vivian McCall is a freelancer for Business Insider's Reference team.
What protects my iPhone from hackers? ›
Use a VPN when on public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi leaves you vulnerable to anyone who has access to the same network. By using a VPN on your iPhone when connected to public Wi-Fi, you can protect your iPhone when it's most vulnerable to random hackers.
- Use strong passwords. You're at a greater risk of being hacked if you use basic passwords for your important accounts. ...
- Enable two-factor authentication. ...
- Avoid linking accounts. ...
- Train your team. ...
- Never leave your laptop or mobile phone unattended. ...
- Turn on USB Restricted Mode. ...
- Make sure automatic iOS updates are turned on. ...
- Enable Find My iPhone. ...
- Disable lock screen options. ...
- Use a VPN on public Wi-Fi. ...
- Use additional encryption when backing up. ...
- Monitor privacy settings periodically. ...
- Set a stronger device passcode.
Yes! Your iPhone has almost every piece of information about you! And you shouldn't ignore the possibility of someone getting into it and tracking you down through your iPhone's camera, microphone, or IP. A few preventive measures can go a long way to secure you and your data!What apps check for hackers on iPhone? ›
iVerify. First and foremost, iVerify is a security scanner that makes sure you are making use of the basic security features such as Face/Touch ID, Screen Lock, and are running the latest iOS version. It also runs a device scan that looks for security anomalies and gives you a heads up if something seems out of place.What do hackers hate the most? ›
- Keep Your Secrets… well… ...
- Only Take What You Need. ...
- Choose Passwords Wisely. ...
- Select a Smart Staff. ...
- Know what to look for! ...
- Make it tough on the hackers – do all of the Things that Hackers Hate!
Change your passwords immediately
If you think you've been hacked, update all your passwords — not just the ones you know were compromised. It may seem like a lot of work, but it's the only way to ensure that hackers can't do any more damage.
Make sure you update your software and apps regularly and get rid of old apps you don't use. Use a password, lock code, or encryption. Be skeptical about links and attachments. If you're not sure about the source, don't use the link or open the attachment.How do I make my phone secure? ›
Turn on two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, adds a second layer of security to your Android account in case your password gets stolen. With 2FA, once you enter your password, a second message is sent to another device asking to verify that you are trying to login.
Due to security restrictions on iOS, it is not possible for any app to scan the system or other apps for malware. Apps are not allowed those kinds of permissions, and for that reason, antivirus software on iOS is not possible.
How can I tell if someone is connected to my iPhone? ›
Sign in to the Apple ID website (https://appleid.apple.com) and review all the personal and security information in your account to see if there is any information that someone else has added. If you have two-factor authentication turned on, review trusted devices for any devices that you don't recognize.What are 4 things to do when you get hacked? ›
- Step 1: Immediately change your passwords.
- Step 2: Quickly assess the situation.
- Step 3: Create fraud alerts for your credit.
- Step 4: Go back and set up 2-factor authentication.
- Step 5: Monitor your accounts closely for a while.
- Add extra protection with your face, finger, pattern, or PIN. ...
- Use a VPN. ...
- Stick to the official app stores for your apps. ...
- Back up the data on your phone. ...
- Learn how to lock or wipe your phone remotely in case of emergency. ...
- Get rid of old apps—and update the ones you keep.
Use the code *#21# to see if hackers track your phone with malicious intent. You can also use this code to verify if your calls, messages, or other data are being diverted.What are the signs of a hacked iPhone? ›
- iPhone overheating and constant low battery. This is normally a sign that a process is running in the background without your knowledge. ...
- You're informed of strange messages from contacts. ...
- Mysterious messages and texts. ...
- iPhone performance has dropped. ...
- High data usage.
“Therefore, if someone hacks your phone, they would have access to the following information: email addresses and phone numbers (from your contacts list), pictures, videos, documents, and text messages.” Additionally, he warns, hackers can monitor every keystroke you type on the phone's keyboard.Can I tell if someone is spying on my iPhone? ›
The spy app needs to use data to send information back to the perpetrator, so a spike in data usage may indicate foul play. To check your mobile data on iPhone, go to Settings then Mobile Data. You can see your overall data use, or scroll down to see how much mobile data individual apps are consuming.Can Apple detect a hacker? ›
If Apple detects evidence of a state-sponsored attack, the targeted user will get a Threat Notification on the top of the page when signed into appleid.apple.com.What do hackers really want? ›
Unfortunately, some attackers want to steal your data just to prove that they can. They are not motivated by monetary gain, access to free resources or the ability to steal your users' identities. They simply want to prove to themselves – and their hacker friends, perhaps – that they can break past your defenses.What do hackers mostly look for? ›
The goal might be financial gain, disrupting a competitor or enemy, or theft of valuable data or intellectual property. Their clients might be nation-states, companies interested in corporate espionage, or other criminal groups looking to resell what the hackers steal.
Who do hackers target the most? ›
- Healthcare. Over 90% of hospitals have been the victims of cyberattacks (most notably, ransomware) within the past three years. ...
- Government. ...
- Non-Profit. ...
- Finance and Insurance.
Some Android manufacturers pre-install security apps that will allow you to remove any hacking apps from your device without the need to install anything else.Who to go to if you've been hacked? ›
The FTC. If you confirm you've been a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission can help with a recovery plan and important documentation. Trusted friends and family. Let them know you suspect suspicious activity so they can keep an eye out for phishing messages or unusual communications.Do hackers tell you you've been hacked? ›
Hackers don't typically tell their victims that they've been hacked. Most of the time, when hackers gain entry to computers to do their dirty work, they don't want anyone to know. That way, they can come back another time to see what else they can do or find.What do hackers hack the most? ›
The biggest motivation is often financial gain. Hackers can make money by stealing your passwords, accessing your bank or credit card details, holding your information to ransom, or selling your data to other hackers or on the dark web.How do most people get hacked? ›
Hackers include links in spam emails or on fake websites, which will trigger a malware download if you click on the link. Keylogger programs enable hackers to spy on you, as the malware captures everything you type. Once inside, the malware can explore your computer and record keystrokes to steal passwords.Does changing password stop hackers? ›
A hacker may attempt to access your account more than once over a period of time. Changing your password often reduces the risk that they will have frequent access.What is the most secure way to lock your phone? ›
A PIN code is a simple alternative to a password. Android allows PINs of up to 16 digits, which equates to 10 quadrillion combinations. While a 16-digit PIN is extremely secure, it's tough to remember. Most people are more likely to choose a four digit PIN, which has 10 thousand combinations.How do I clean my phone from viruses? ›
- Clear your cache and downloads. Open Settings, go to Apps & notifications, and select Chrome. ...
- Restart your Android device in safe mode. ...
- Find and remove malicious apps. ...
- Activate Google Play Protect. ...
- Install anti-malware software.
- Update iOS software to the latest version. Updating your iPhone to the latest iOS software can assure you have the latest fixes and patches. ...
- Remove suspicious apps. ...
- Clear browsing data and history. ...
- Reset iPhone to factory settings.
How do I know if malware is on my phone? ›
Top Signs Your Phone Has a Virus
According to antivirus software maker McAfee, malware on your device causes it to work harder than it should. Your device may suddenly become sluggish or apps may not load correctly. Battery life may decrease as well.
- Tap Apps.
- Tap Smart Manager.
- Go to Security.
- Tap Scan Now.
Yes, a partner, parent, or even employer can gain remote, real-time access to your iPhone using spying software. Spyware can track your GPS location, record your keypad inputs such as credit card numbers and passwords, and monitor your calls, texts, app usage, emails, voice, and other personal data.Can you tell if someone looked at your phone? ›
If you're an Android user, another useful place to check is your notification history. From Settings, tap Notifications, then Notification history to see alerts that have come in recently. It's possible that if an unwelcome guest has been on your phone, there will be some traces of what they've been up to here.How do I know who is connected to my device? ›
- Open the Google Home app .
- Tap Wi-Fi .
- At the top, tap Devices.
- Tap a specific device and a tab to find additional details. Speed: Real-time usage is how much data your device is currently using.
Yes, you should be able to remove a hacker by doing a factory reset on your phone. Keep in mind that this solution will remove all of your data, including contacts, third-party apps, photos, and other files. You will need to set up your phone entirely from scratch.How do I stop my phone from being tracked? ›
- Open the “App Drawer.”
- Go to “Settings.”
- Select “Location.”
- Enter “Google Location Settings.”
- Turn off “Location Reporting” and “Location History.”
- You can also select “Delete Location History” to remove all previous tracking data.
- Reviews. Norton Antivirus. TotalAV. Intego VirusBarrier X9. McAfee. VIPRE. Panda Security. Eset. See all.
- By OS/Device. Mac. Windows.
- Guides. Best Antivirus in 2022. Best Free Firewalls. Free Antivirus Software. Malware Statistics & Facts. See all.
- Compare providers. McAfee vs Kaspersky. Norton vs Kaspersky. McAfee vs Norton.
- Your phone loses charge quickly. ...
- Your phone runs abnormally slowly. ...
- You notice strange activity on your other online accounts. ...
- You notice unfamiliar calls or texts in your logs.
“The most common signs of a device being compromised are that the battery gets drained faster than usual, you experience spikes in your internet data usage although your browsing habits haven't changed, your GPS feature or internet (either Wi-Fi or mobile data) can be enabled or disabled by itself, and random ad pop- ...
Does *# 21 tell you if your phone is tapped? ›
Our ruling: False. We rate the claim that dialing *#21# on an iPhone or Android device reveals if a phone has been tapped FALSE because it is not supported by our research.How do hackers get access to iPhone? ›
Phishing emails and smishing texts via SMS or WhatsApp are among the most common types of fraud. Your iPhone could be hacked if you reply, call the numbers, or click on any malicious links. Enable the “Find My iPhone” app. This feature allows you to track your phone using any device with the “Find My” app installed.What are the signs of your iPhone being hacked? ›
- Your battery doesn't last as long as it used to. ...
- High data usage. ...
- Suspicious apps on your phone. ...
- Someone has jailbroken your iPhone. ...
- Enterprise or developer apps are installed. ...
- Background noise or electronic interference.
“Advanced Data Protection is Apple's highest level of cloud data security, giving users the choice to protect the vast majority of their most sensitive iCloud data with end-to-end encryption so that it can only be decrypted on their trusted devices.” For users who opt in, Advanced Data Protection keeps most iCloud data ...Can you check to see if your phone is hacked? ›
Use the code *#21# to see if hackers track your phone with malicious intent. You can also use this code to verify if your calls, messages, or other data are being diverted. It also shows your diverted information's status and the number to which the information is transferred.Can someone hack my iPhone through text messages? ›
So to answer the question, “Can someone hack my phone by texting me?” No, your phone cannot be hacked by anyone just by receiving or opening the message. If you further follow the instructions of the text and click on the malicious link, then hacking might happen.What does it look like when your phone is hacked? ›
Signs Your Phone Has Been Hacked
Your phone is running slower than usual. You notice strange activity on your online accounts, like unfamiliar logins, new account signups, or password reset emails. You see unfamiliar calls or texts. You get more pop-ups than usual; this could be a sign of adware.
Since an iPhone cannot have a true virus there is no way to scan for one. If your iOS version is up-to-date (currently iOS 15.5) and you have not jailbroken your iPhone or side loaded apps you have no risk of malware either. You don't.What apps scan iPhone for spyware? ›
What is the best app to detect and remove spyware on an iPhone? Avast Mobile Security for iOS is designed to guard against the full range of device-specific malware and other threat types, making it one of the best free antivirus apps for iPhone.How do I block my phone from being tracked? ›
- Go to Settings > Privacy and tap Location Services.
- You can toggle off Location Services for all apps or scroll down and turn off location services only for specific apps.
- Go to Settings > Location, and toggle the location button to Off.
Will a factory reset remove a hacker? ›
Yes, you should be able to remove a hacker by doing a factory reset on your phone. Keep in mind that this solution will remove all of your data, including contacts, third-party apps, photos, and other files. You will need to set up your phone entirely from scratch.