CAN YOUR IPHONE GET HACKED?
By Linda Lindquist, Computer and Internet Help
Four clients have reported that their iPhone had been hacked. Symptoms included:
- Noise clicking on phone calls
- Family members know where they are and show up there
- Ex-boyfriends seeing their text messages
- Family hearing them and reporting their private “overheard” conversations on Facebook
- Phone conversations being tapped into
These clients have become mentally distressed to the point of paranoia, speaking to me in whispers so as not to be “overheard”. They have changed SIM cards, reset their phones, removed apps, configured settings, and yet the ‘hacking’ persists.
I have been honest with them that I do not have a good track record identifying and solving hacks or easing their minds. After more research, I discovered that this is indeed a growing problem.
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR IPHONE IS HACKED[i]
- There are apps, purchases, text messages or phone calls you did not recognize
- The battery drains, the phone runs hot, uses more resources, and has mysterious data spikes; this could be malware running in the background
- Apps switch on and off, crash or fail to load
- There are pop-ups
- Apps open and words seem to type by themselves
- There are photos or videos you did not take, and flash goes off by itself; your camera may be hacked
HOW TO DIAGNOSE HACKING[ii]
There is little security software available for Apple iPhones. iPhones are considered safer because security is built into the core IOS operating system, and apps in the Apple App Store are well screened.
The iVerify app, available after IOS 12, can warn you if your iPhone has been hacked, and gives actionable advice. It is worth paying the $4.99.
HOW TO DETERMINE WHO HAS HACKED YOUR PHONE
This usually requires the services of a cybersecurity expert. Consider who may have had physical access to your phone. Report cases to local and national law enforcement.
- In February 2019, Google researchers discovered some websites that put exploit malware on iPhones to steal private data like iMessage, contacts, photos, GPS location data, passwords, and WhatsApp communications. Possible government agencies targeted a class of dissidents who self-selected by visiting certain websites. Apple issued a security update in IOS 12.1.4 in 2019.
- Jailbreaking an iPhone to download software from outside the App store
- Opening messages and e-mail from people you don’t know
- Clicking on links in e-mails and messages may download malware
- Public wi-fi networks in coffee shops, libraries, and hotels can be exploited by hackers. Do not visit online banking or do any financial transactions on these networks.
- Clicking on pop-ups.
- Using public charging stations.
HOW TO AVOID HACKING[v]
- Use a random PIN code to protect your SIM and prevent access if your phone is stolen.
- Use an Apple ID password that is different from any other you use. In IOS12, use the password auditor to detect duplicate passwords
- Watch for fake apps on websites or in emails that ask for contact info, password, credit cards.
- Use a password manager that requires 2 factor authentications (2FA). Use fingerprint for 2FA not SMS text messages. Use biometric authentication (fingerprint, voice, or facial recognition)
- Don’t use public chargers in train stations, airports, coffee shops. Enable USB restricted mode.
- Be wary of permissions you give to apps. Disable location, camera, microphone if not needed.
- Don’t auto-join public networks. Turn off auto-on for every saved, open Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Wipe and erase all data from iPhone before selling it or trading it in
- Don’t jailbreak or download apps outside of the App store
- Check for suspicious configuration profiles
- Delete unused apps. Use a browser for social media sites. Read reviews before installing apps.
- Quiet your phone when not using, turn on airplane mode.
- Don’t lose your phone or leave it unattended.
- Keep your apps updated and apply patches to the IOS to stop current security threats.
- Disable ‘load remote images’ in email apps.
- Learn to spot phishing scams in emails, text messages, and Facebook.
- Only visit well-known websites,
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR IPHONE IS HACKED?
- Uninstall all unknown apps
- Power off your phone or turn on Airplane mode
- Backup your iPhone and reset to erase date, then restore from your backup
- Try a Default Firmware Update (DFU) from iTunes to reset and restore your iPhone settings
It appears that iPhones can be hacked. Pay attention to the websites you visit, links you click, and networks you use. Be careful and enjoy your iPhone.