Even though you might think that hackers only target well-known people they can extort, the reality is different. No matter who you are, your data can be sold to third parties for advertising purposes. Or, you could be scammed, whether directly through threats or ransom or through careful manipulation. It’s also a misconception that Apple devices are immune to malware or hacking. The risk is significantly reduced, but it’s there. For that reason, it’s important to stay alert and act fast if you notice one or more telltale signs we’ll mention. With that said, here’s how to tell if iPhone has been hacked.
Can iPhone be hacked?
Yes, iPhone can be hacked by an attacker smart enough to get into your system. It could be as simple as a password leak, or as advanced as a network attack. Any system that is connected to the internet is prone to get hacked at any moment. Compared to Android devices which are more flexible and open in nature, iPhones are much more difficult to hack. However, the possibility of getting hacked is still there.
Signs that your iPhone is Hacked
Now that we know the iPhone can possibly get hacked, let’s see the possible ways an iPhone usually gets hacked.
Calls for help or warnings
Have you gotten a call for help via e-mail, text, or phone, asking you to provide personal and financial information? It’s also possible you were warned your Facebook, Google, or iCloud account was compromised, flagged for deletion, or the password somehow expired, and you entered information to confirm? These are common ways hackers phish for your personal information and don’t require a lot of effort on their side.
Increased battery drain
This is not necessarily a sign your phone was hacked, check our article on why is my battery draining so fast? But battery percentage going down, in combination with increased heat (from your processor working overtime) is suspicious. Here’s what to do.
- Launch Settings.
- Go to Battery.
- The list should populate with apps and the percentage of battery used. Check the top 5 apps and see if you recognize their name.
- Optional. Tap on Show Detailed Usage, Show Activity, or Last 10 Days to get a better idea and possibly locate the culprit.
Another way to determine if your iPhone was hacked or if it’s your battery malfunctioning, you can check Battery Health.
- Open Settings.
- Tap on Battery.
- Tap on Battery Health.
- You can see the health of the battery and how much it has deteriorated in comparison to when it was brand new. Additionally, Apple rates your battery performance. It’s a number that should be taken with a grain of salt, as it’s just an estimate.
Reduction in performance
Ask yourself – has your phone been acting sluggish recently? If so, first make sure to go on a cleanup – uninstall or disable any application you haven’t used in a while.
Next, make sure you never have too many apps open in the background. To do so on iOS 13 and later, swipe diagonally from the bottom left corner toward the middle. A list of background apps will appear. Place your finger on the app window, then swipe upright, toward the top of the screen to close them.
If this didn’t help, try going through internal storage, and getting rid of things you don’t need regularly. If neither of these steps made any perceivable difference, it’s reasonable to suspect that hacking is the culprit.
Strange pop-ups and notifications
Have you’ve been asked to confirm some stuff out of the blue? Maybe you were asked to permit access to storage, camera, contact list, or text messages? Either way, it’s time to get suspicious. It could also be something innocent, such as giving a 5-star rating, leaving a review, or claiming a reward. Never do so until you can verify where it comes from, and if someone had the same experience online.
Unusual calls or texts
Another signs that your iPhone was penetrated by hackers are unusual calls or text messages on your phone, both sent and received. You might not think it’s a big deal if the number is unknown to you. But, a hacker can rack up your phone bill making international calls, some of which could be illegal.
Also, receiving a verification code through SMS, as well as receiving a call for a few seconds is a popular way to verify an online account. This is where it gets terrifying – the hacker can sign you up for a wide variety of services, free or paid, and commit criminal activities in your name.
Increased mobile data usage
If your phone number wasn’t compromised directly, maybe the access to 3G and 4 GB mobile networks was. Enter a code given by your mobile service provider to verify the status of your monthly bill or remaining credits on prepaid SIM. Check if the bill has increased. If not, check the number of MBs (or GBs) of mobile data you have available, and if it has gone down. If you haven’t used mobile data a lot, or at all, this is a good sign someone else did.
Presence of apps you don’t recognize
Have you noticed any new apps pop up recently? Especially if you don’t remember doing it, and no one else could have? A hacker might have gained developer access or even jailbroken your iPhone. In both cases, one or more apps are bound to appear on the list.
Another common sign of being hacked is the appearance of additional Notepad, Note, Calculator, third-party music player for Apple devices, or any such innocent-looking app. They might even function perfectly. In reality, they are actually spy apps, monitoring and logging your activity and location, uploading data, accessing microphone and camera, and even allowing remote control by the hacker.
Strange activity on your accounts
Maybe it wasn’t your iPhone that was hacked directly. Losing sole control of your iCloud, Google, or Hotmail account is a common occurrence as well. Not only can they use the e-mail to spam, but also to deceive and defraud others. Furthermore, they can download your backups and gain access to other services you use through Gmail, iCloud, or Hotmail.
Check drafts, deleted, sent, and received e-mails first. If there’s nothing there, we recommend you check online resources such as haveibeenpwned.com or install an app such as Dashlane, which will alert you about data breaches.
Loss of access to SIM card altogether
Some people abruptly lose access to their phone numbers. Although this requires advanced skills on the hacker’s side, it’s not unheard of. After gathering your personal information, they can phone your mobile service provider, and claim you’ve lost the SIM card.
It’s not hard for them to pull the wool over their eyes with that kind of access, right? Then, they have the SIM card shipped to a new address, often a P.O. box and the trail grows cold. With that, they have free reign of what they can do with your identity without being implicated. Unfortunately, it will likely be illegal after all that effort.
How to recover from a hack?
In order to recover from a hack or hack attempt, you should first know what caused it. While there is no single method to recover from a hack that has already happened, the best thing to do is to prevent it from happening. These are a few things you could follow to recover from a hack.
- Disconnect the device from the internet.
- Restore your iPhone to a previous working state.
- Visit an Apple store and ask them for help.
- If you unlocked your iPhone at any time, you may not get help from Apple support. In that case, you will have to visit a local security expert.
- Reset iPhone to factory defaults.