Laura Kankaala, a professional hacker, has shared signs that your smartphone has been compromised
Cybercriminals may live in the shadows of the digital world, but a professional hacker has shared signs that they are lurking in your smartphone.
‘White hat’ hacker Laura Kankaala was trained to be ethical but uses malicious techniques to help the average person stay safe.
She said an overheating device or random green light on a screen could mean someone is watching you.
Other signs include certain emails and phone calls to be weary of.
Kankaala leads the Finnish ‘white hat’ (as opposed to criminal ‘black hats’) hacking collective KyberVPK and has appeared on a TV series where she hacks into everything from smart home devices to cars.
‘As an ethical hacker, you would know someone is inside your phone because I would tell you and help you remove my access,’ she said.
A dot appears on the screen
If you see a green dot on the Android screen or an orange dot on the iPhone, it could be a warning sign you’ve been hacked, or someone has installed a dodgy app on your phone, Kankaala said.
She said that these warning dots appear when the device’s microphone or camera is in use – and it can be a warning sign that a phone is running malicious software meant to spy on people.
If you see a green dot on the Android screen, it could be a warning sign you’ve been hacked or someone has installed a dodgy app on your phone
‘Malware may record audio with your microphone, read your messages or track your location,’ said Kankaala.
‘Cyber criminals can employ malware like this or even an abusive person you know in the form of stalkerware.’
Reviewing your apps and deleting unknown ones can help, or try factory resetting your phone or running a virus scan application, Kankaala advises.
On iPhone, you can check which of your apps utilizes the camera or mic by going into the phone’s Control Center and reviewing the dots icon at the top.
This should reveal which apps are using your microphone, camera or location.
The orange ‘dot,’ which can also appear orange, means that your device’s microphone is currently in use
You can also go into Settings and turn on the App Privacy Report to see a running log of which apps have used your sensitive ‘permissions’ and when.
Your phone heats up
A phone warming up can be a warning sign that malicious software has been installed, said Kankalaa.
‘Whenever continuous location sharing is enabled, your phone will probably run out of battery fast inexplicably, and you can feel your phone heat up,’ she continued.
‘You may find weird-looking apps that you either can’t remember installing on your phone or apps you may have accidentally downloaded outside of the official app store – for instance, someone sends you a text message urging you to download an app.
‘Sometimes these apps try to camouflage themselves and change the app name to something that resembles phone settings or anything that makes you feel like they might be legitimate. It may also be tough, if not impossible, to delete these apps directly.’
You get emails from social media apps
If you start getting emails from your bank or social media apps asking if you want to change your password, it can be a sign that your credentials have been stolen.
Criminals can do this via phishing attacks, where victims are persuaded to visit a fake website.
It’s crucial to act fast, Kankalaa advised.
‘The attacker has not necessarily backdoored your phone – it could be that they have stolen access to your online services such as your critical email or iCloud credentials, or even social media apps that you predominantly use via your phone,’ she said.
‘In case someone with criminal intentions has stolen your credentials, you will probably notice this when the access to your services gets blocked once they change your password.’
Your bank calls you
Hackers don’t need to install dodgy apps to target you on your phone and often attack using calls and texts, Kankalaa warned.
Even if numbers appear correct for your bank, it can still be a scam.
‘One of the easiest ways to target people using mobile phones with different sorts of scams is via text messages and phone calls, said Kankalaa.
‘It’s very easy to impersonate phone numbers of financial institutions or other well-known parties and attempt to manipulate you to do something that’s against your best interest – for instance, do an instant monetary transaction or give out your credentials to online services.’