Protect your Android phone against hackers with Avast One
Does getting a sketchy call or text mean your device is already compromised? Almost certainly not, but it could be the start of a hacking attempt or a fraudulent scam. Read on to find out what happens when a hacker calls, so you can keep your phone secure. Then install Avast One to help defend against phone hacking and other malicious techniques scammers use.
Phone calls are unlikely to be the direct source of phone hacks. But text messages can contain malware, and both calls and texts can be used to launch phishing attacks or other scams to trick you into giving up sensitive information, transferring money, or downloading viruses or spyware.
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The best way to avoid hacks via texts and calls is not to answer numbers you don’t recognize. Don’t call them or text them back, and don’t click any links. You might be the victim of a call-back scam, and calling back may charge you at an international rate, with the hacker getting some or all of it. And watch out for social engineering tactics that fraudsters use to get you to click a malicious link.
A message with a suspicious link could look like one of the following:
An advertisement for a sale or an offer
A request for help from a family member
A warning from Facebook or another social media platform
Hackers can imitate — or “spoof” — email addresses and phone numbers. Don’t fall for it. When it comes to scam phone calls, hackers often impersonate trusted organizations to try and get targets to give up sensitive information — known as vishing (voice phishing).
Scammers can impersonate a trusted organization on a phone call.
But can someone hack into your phone by calling you through an app? WhatsApp users have been hacked through unanswered phone calls in the past, but that security flaw has since been patched. Nevertheless, different types of hackers are always on the lookout for new security flaws, so it’s impossible to be 100% protected. The best you can usually do is to practice good digital hygiene and proactively manage your internet security and privacy.
Spam calls can’t hack your phone, because signals from cellular service providers aren’t able to hack phones themselves. But spam calls may try to trick you into giving up information, which is where the danger lies.
So, can your cell phone be hacked by answering a call? No, but the FTC has warned of an emerging phone threat: deep fakes, where scammers use artificial intelligence (AI) or other digital technology to clone your voice, and then call a loved one pretending to be you and needing money.
And if you’ve talked extensively with a spam caller pretending to be from a legitimate institution, they can then use the information they gather against you — possibly even to steal your phone number in a SIM swap scam. Don’t trust these calls and make sure to learn how to stop phone spoofing.
What about so-called “no caller ID” hacks? “No caller ID" calls are not hacking calls; they’re just calls from private numbers. Can spam calls hack your phone? Extremely unlikely. Scammers need you to pick up and engage with them, and that’s how they get you.
Be suspicious of unknown texts, too. Never click a link in a text message unless you initiated the communication (like a password reset request). There’s a reason they call this “phishing.” Don’t take the bait and you won’t get reeled in.
What’s the difference between a scam and spam? Spam calls are annoying, but scam calls using phishing tactics are worse — they typically try to get you to make a one-off payment, but they may also try to get your credit card information. Your response to both types of calls should be the same: ignore it.
Phishing calls are always malicious, whereas spam calls are usually just annoying.
No one can hack you just by texting you (unless they use sophisticated zero-click exploit technology). As long as you don’t click any links or open attachments, there’s usually no threat. A link should only be clicked — and an attachment should only be opened — if you’re expecting it and sure it’s safe.
Scammers send out a lot of text messages. Only a small percentage of victims need to click the link in the text for the campaign to be successful. The victims may unwittingly download malware or be directed to a malicious site where they enter personal information.
So, can someone hack my phone by texting me? Normally only if you click a link or open an attachment. But if you think you’re immune to such obvious tactics, even Jeff Bezos was once hacked in this way. Everyone gets worn down sometimes. These messages are a pain, and you might get careless — thankfully, it’s possible to stop unwanted text messages.
You can’t get hacked by simply replying to a text. However, engaging with a hacker in any way will make it more likely that you get hacked. They’ll find a way to fool you and make you click a link, which is what leads to you getting hacked.
Nothing happens behind the scenes if you type a message out and hit send — but the hacker already knows more about you and could trick you into offering up information or clicking a link they send. It’s best not to engage at all.
A zero-click exploit is a rare type of hack that can target you without you doing anything. You won’t even know anything is wrong, either. A zero-click attack requires a great deal of sophistication, making it unlikely that the average individual will be targeted.
These are quite different from zero-day attacks, but similar in that they are incredibly difficult to foresee or prevent. The best defense is keeping your system and software updated, and using a good antivirus.
One example of a zero-click attack was the WhatsApp missed call hack, in which spyware was installed on phones without users even needing to pick up a call. These types of hacks constitute major security breaches — enough to make the news.
There are a wide variety of ways you can get hacked. Some of them are totally preventable by common-sense browsing, while others can be much trickier to avoid. Here are some ways your phone can be hacked:
Phishing: Hacking campaigns like spear phishing will disguise a dangerous text as a legitimate one. It will look like it’s from Amazon or the IRS, and the scammer might ask for your password or try to get you to click a link. Remember that legitimate companies and organizations never ask for personal information via SMS.
Malvertising: Advertisements on websites can contain code that downloads malware onto your computer. While malvertising ads are more likely to be found on gambling or adult websites, major sites such as the New York Times and the BBC have been hit by malvertising in the past.
Smishing: This type of attack combines the words “SMS” and “phishing.” You may be excited to receive a text, and you may think it’s coming from a friend with a new phone. But if you click the link, your info could be compromised.
Pretexting: Pretexting involves establishing a pretext or reason for you to do something now or in the future. The scammer creates a story to help gain your trust so they can trick you into sharing personal details, installing malware, or sending money.
Man-in-the-middle attacks: A hacker can get between you and an application (or another user), intercepting data. The goal of these attacks is typically to steal sensitive information like login credentials or credit card numbers.
Keylogging: If a keylogger is installed on your phone, the hacker can track the keystrokes you make as you tap your phone. This can give away valuable information like log-in credentials, text messages details, and other personal info.
SIM swapping: This type of fraud happens when a scammer convinces your mobile phone carrier to send out a new SIM. When they activate it, their aim is to take advantage of accounts set up with two-factor authentication. As long as they know the log-in details, they’ll then receive the verification code to their phone.
Bluetooth: Hackers can use software to intercept a Bluetooth signal and access your phone. Don’t pair your phone with an unknown device, or in a location you don’t trust.
Wi-Fi: Be extra careful on public Wi-Fi as unsecured networks make it easy for hackers to intercept your communications. Always use a VPN on your mobile on public Wi-Fi for calls, texts, or when browsing the web.
Charging stations: Hackers can infect public charging stations with malware. If you connect your phone, then this spreads to your device and they could collect your private data.
How do hackers hack a phone? It seems like new ways are invented every day. And remember, scam calls or texts can seem legitimate so always be vigilant when responding to texts or calls.
There are many ways to hack into a cell phone
The best way to prevent your phone from being hacked is to install strong security software from a reputable company. Smart browsing habits can take you a long way, but you’ll need enhanced security to block you from the dangers you can’t foresee or physically see.
Perhaps you fell for what seemed like an innocent text requesting your date of birth and that was the last piece of the puzzle a scammer needed to steal your identity. Identity theft is a nightmare — make sure to watch out for phishing scams and signs and symptoms of a phone hack so you can mitigate the damage as much as possible.
Or you can use an app like Avast BreachGuard, which will be several steps ahead of you. If one of your passwords shows up in a data breach, BreachGuard will let you know so you can change it immediately and secure your account. It even scans the dark web for your credentials or personal information in case it has leaked.
If you think your phone has been hacked, the first thing to do is disconnect it from the internet and run an anti-malware scan. Learn how to remove viruses from an Android or an iPhone in case it ever happens to you — it’s best to install security software ahead of time.
While you can avoid sketchy links, what about when security breaches happen invisibly? Avast One's award-winning security and privacy features will help shield your phone against hacking in real time, detect and block malware before it can infect your device, and even notify you to malicious websites and unsafe links and downloads. Install it for free today.
Any device connected to the internet can be hacked, including iPhones. Look out for suspicious signs like apps appearing on your iPhone that you didn’t install, random phone calls or text messages, pop-ups appearing more than normal, or notifications that you’re using more data than usual. Always protect your iPhone with quality anti-malware software to block threats like spyware.
Your phone can’t be hacked from your number alone, although there are some zero-click attacks that can install malware even if you don’t answer a call or click a text. Usually, to hack a phone, scammers need targets to take some action, like clicking a malicious link or downloading an infected app.
A common way for hackers to get your phone number is through a data breach. The information gained is often shared or sold on the dark web, which could include everything from your phone number to your Social Security number. The more information a hacker has on you, the easier it will be for them to hack into your online accounts or use targeted social engineering tactics.