Smartphones are integral to our lives, making them prime targets for hackers. In this article, we will go through 7 ways hackers can gain access to your smartphone and how to protect against these attacks.
Smartphones have become an essential part of our daily lives with instant access to information at the touch of a button. Whether we’re checking our social media feeds or responding to work emails, they are always within arm’s reach. It's no wonder that these devices offer a wide range of functions, from GPS navigation to streaming music.
In 2023, the number of smartphone users worldwide is projected to reach 6.8 billion, a growth rate of 4.2% per year.
As we all depend more and more on our smartphones, the importance of securing them is at an all-time high. Cybercriminals can target your device using malicious apps, phishing, and even more sophisticated attacks.
As almost every aspect of our lives is now connected to our smartphones, a hacker gaining access to your device can be a nightmare scenario. Being the victim of a smartphone hack can be a distressing experience that can leave you feeling exposed and violated.
They can steal your personal information, bank account details, or social media passwords. The repercussions can be severe, ranging from financial loss to reputational damage.
I have outlined the 7 most common ways hackers can reach your smartphone. We will also see tips on how to protect your device from cyberattacks.
Keep reading to learn how you can keep your smartphone and data safe from those who try to exploit it.
Smishing is a type of phishing attack that hackers use to get access to sensitive information through text messages. An attacker will send you a link to click through a text message making it appear from a legitimate source.
Due to the limited display of URLs in mobile browsers, Smishing can be difficult to detect on mobile devices. This makes Smishing as effective as email phishing.
Knowing the source of text messages is crucial. This applies to messaging platforms like WhatsApp as well. Always be wary of clicking links or responding to messages from unknown numbers.
According to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, Smishing accounted for nearly a half-billion dollars in losses in 2019.
Breaking in via Bluetooth
Bluetooth is another easy way with which hackers target smartphones. Smartphones are vulnerable to Bluetooth hacking due to weak security protocols.
Hackers can gain access to calls, texts, and authentication codes via Bluetooth. It becomes easier for hackers to break into your device if you leave your Bluetooth connection unregulated. Luckily, physical proximity to the device is important for Bluetooth hacking.
Attackers can exploit weak wireless connections in public spaces. The automatic pairing of devices with visible Bluetooth signals makes it easy for attackers to exploit. To ensure safety, you must turn off your Bluetooth unless necessary and disable auto-pairing.
Malware is any software designed to harm computers, networks, or mobile devices. It can come in various forms such as viruses, spyware, adware, or Trojans.
Hackers can use malware to steal your account credentials, check your online activity, or even take control of your device. To avoid malware, ensure that your device’s software is up-to-date.
Install apps only from the app store or play store and never install them directly from third-party websites. Consider using antivirus or anti-malware software to protect your smartphone.
In the first half of 2020, more than 3.2 billion malware attacks have been registered by SonicWall.
Malvertising is another popular tactic used by hackers to target smartphones. It involves using malicious advertisements to spread malware or spyware on various devices.
Malvertising works by delivering malicious ads via online advertising networks. These malvertisements are often found in illegal or pornographic websites.
Installation of malware or spyware on your device leads to instant compromise of your device. To protect your smartphone, avoid clicking on unknown ads or visiting suspicious websites.
The annual malvertising revenue on pirating websites is projected to be $1.34 billion.
Social engineering is another popular attack vector used by hackers to access confidential data. It involves tricking users into providing sensitive information. This information could be your email, password, or even credit card information.
To protect your device from social engineering attacks, you should be wary of suspicious emails, messages, and phone calls. If a message or call requests personal information, double-check and make sure it is a legitimate source.
Social engineering attacks are also common in the workplace. If someone from your company is requesting suspicious information, check and make sure the request is from them via alternate communication channels.
23% of social engineering breaches resulted in the confirmed disclosure of data to an unauthorized party.
Pretexting is another technique used by hackers to gain access to confidential data. It involves creating a false pretext or story to convince an individual to reveal sensitive information.
Cybercriminals use pretexting attacks to steal passwords, credit card numbers, and personal details.
Never give out any personal information unless you are certain of the recipient’s identity. If you receive any suspicious messages via email or text messages, ignore them or report them to your organization’s security team.
Phishing and pretexting accounted for nearly all of the social breaches with 93% of the incidents. Email was the most utilized attack vector (96%).
Man-in-the-middle Wi-Fi Attacks
One of the most common ways hackers can target your smartphone is through man-in-the-middle Wi-Fi attacks. These attacks happen when you connect to public Wi-Fi or an unsecured network.
The hacker intercepts communication using tools like Wireshark and obtains information. Hackers can also access and manipulate data through hacked routers, which can lead to devastating consequences.
It’s important to note that these types of attacks do not need the hacker to take control of the user’s device, which makes them particularly dangerous. Wireless networks are vulnerable to a variety of attacks, so always be cautious when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, use a VPN to mask your network traffic.
How to Protect Yourself from Smartphone Attacks
Now that we have seen 7 ways hackers can target your smartphone, let me summarize the key points to protect yourself.
1. Download apps from trusted sources & install mobile antivirus software:
Always download apps from legitimate stores like the Apple app store or Google Play Store. Never download third-party apps or .apk files to your device. Ensure to use mobile antivirus software to protect your device from malware attacks.
2. Beware of phishing emails & use strong passwords:
Be wary of any emails that ask you to click on a link or enter personal information. Always use unique, complex passwords for your online accounts. Also, try to use two-factor authentication when possible.
3. Stay up-to-date with security patches:
Ensure to update your operating system and apps with the latest security patches on a regular basis. Most software updates include security patches, and these vulnerabilities will be publicly disclosed. So, if you don’t update your device, you become an easy target for attackers.
4. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network):
When connected to public Wi-Fi networks or other unsecured networks, use a VPN to protect your data from hackers. This prevents unwanted snooping by malicious actors by using tools like Wireshark.
5. Disable Bluetooth & GPS services when not in use:
Ensure that your Bluetooth and GPS services are not active when they are not required. This will further reduce attack vectors for malicious actors.
Smartphone hacking is an unfortunate reality. It can leave users vulnerable to identity theft and financial loss.
To keep your smartphone device secure, do not give out personal information to untrusted sources. Stay vigilant and use the above-recommended security practices to ensure the safety of your smartphone.
If you found this article useful, join the Stealth Security newsletter to get an email every Friday. We will include our articles, videos and the latest news from the world of Cybersecurity.