How to Safely Remove a Hacker From Your Phone

Cell phone cyberattacks are on the rise. Here’s how to safely and quickly remove a hacker from your phone.
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Almost everyone knows computers can contain malware, but did you know your cell phone can too? You may be surprised to learn that over 60% of all the world’s fraud originates on mobile devices, with 80% of attacks happening through mobile apps.[1]

This guide is designed to help you protect your smartphone. We will help you learn how to detect if it has been compromised and how to remove a hacker from your phone. We'll also discuss the importance of using antivirus software to safeguard your phone activity.

In this article
How to remove a hacker from your phone
Best antivirus for smartphones
14 tips to prevent your phone from being hacked
How to know if your phone is hacked
How smartphones get hacked
Hacked phone FAQ
Bottom line

How to remove a hacker from your phone

Have you been infected with malware or hijacked by a hacker? Don’t worry — there are things you can do immediately to take back your phone. Here are the steps to remove the threat:

  • Review your app permissions. To ensure an app isn’t violating your privacy — and, in turn, hackers aren’t either — you can review or change app permissions in your settings.
  • Change your passwords. Create strong, unique passwords for each account. This step will help prevent hackers from accessing your personal information.
  • Clear your cache. Keep your cookies and cache cleared regularly if you notice malware in your web browsing routine.
  • Run an antivirus scan. Running antivirus software on your phone can identify and remove any malware or suspicious apps.
  • Turn off your mobile data and Wi-Fi. Temporarily turn off your mobile data and Wi-Fi to disrupt the hacker's access to your device. This will prevent malicious apps from communicating with their remote servers and give you time to resolve the issue.
  • Remove suspicious apps and texts: Regularly check your phone's apps and text message logs and delete any apps and texts you don’t recognize. Unfamiliar apps and texts could be malicious tools used by hackers.
  • Update your phone. These updates bring new features and bug fixes, including essential security patches that protect your phone from cyberthreats.
  • Uninstall any jailbreaks. A jailbroken phone is more susceptible to cyberattacks, making it a potential target for malicious actors. Jailbreaking also disables your ability to update the operating system, which you need to do in order to fix security patches.
  • Perform a factory reset. Consider a factory reset if you cannot identify and remove the hacker or malware from your phone. This will erase all data on your device, returning it to its default settings, so make sure to back up your photos and files.

These methods should help get hackers off your phone. While these methods are effective, the best way to avoid hackers in the first place is preventative care, which includes installing an antivirus on your phone.

Best antivirus for smartphones

Mobile devices contain a treasure trove of personal data, making them prime targets for cybercriminals. Here are seven reasons you need an antivirus for your smartphone:

  • Malware defense
  • Phishing and “smishing” protection
  • Privacy preservation
  • Safe browsing
  • Real-time scanning
  • Protection against identity theft
  • Child safety and privacy

Antivirus software offers real-time scanning, constantly checking for threats as you use your device. This proactive approach helps stop malware in its tracks. Antivirus software also protects your privacy by preventing unauthorized access to your personal data. This is especially important if your phone is lost or stolen.

When selecting antivirus software for your smartphone, consider the following features:

  • Real-time protection
  • Low system impact
  • Anti-phishing tools
  • Privacy features
  • Regular updates

Norton 360 is our first pick for the best smartphone antivirus because it is compatible with both iOS and Android, and it offers great security features like identity protection and a VPN. Android users will find extra bonuses from Bitdefender, which offers a free Android version and an affordable Android-only plan with lots of mobile security features.

Top 3 antiviruses for smartphones

Antivirus
Norton Mobile Security

Bitdefender Mobile Security

McAfee Mobile Security
Starting price $19.99/yr (first year only) $14.99/yr (first year only) $29.99/first yr
Free version No, only a free trial Yes for Android, but not for iOS No, only a free trial
Compatible operating system Android and iPhone Android and iPhone Android and iPhone
Learn more See Norton Pricing See Bitdefender Pricing See McAfee Pricing

Need more options? You can explore more recommendations in our guides for the best iPhone antivirus and best Android antivirus.

14 tips to prevent your phone from being hacked

Protecting your phone from hacks is crucial in today's digital world. We’ve compiled 15 tips that will help you safeguard your device and your personal and work life from common cyberthreats:

  1. Lock it down: Use robust authentication methods like biometrics, passkeys, PINs, or patterns. Implement two-factor authentication for added security.
  2. Use a VPN: When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, employ a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt and protect your data from prying eyes.
  3. Stick to the official app stores: Download apps from trusted sources like Google Play and Apple's App Store. Read app descriptions and reviews to avoid malicious or counterfeit apps.
  4. Remote lock and wipe: Learn how to lock or wipe your phone remotely if lost or stolen.
  5. App clean-up: Delete unnecessary apps and associated accounts to reduce security risks. Outdated apps can pose vulnerabilities; update the ones you keep regularly.
  6. Mobile security software: Install reputable mobile security software to protect your data, online transactions, and phone security.
  7. Clear internet history: Regularly clear your browsing history, cookies, and cache to prevent data profiling.
  8. Operating system updates: Keep your phone's operating system and apps updated to patch security vulnerabilities. Enable automatic updates for added protection.
  9. Data backups: Regularly back up your phone's data to prevent loss. Ensure your personal information remains accessible even if your phone is lost.
  10. Find my phone: Activate the "Find My Phone" feature in your phone's settings. It helps locate your phone if lost or stolen and allows you to lock or erase your data remotely.
  11. App safety: Avoid installing apps from unverified sources, which may contain malware or spyware.
  12. Avoid jailbreaking: Refrain from jailbreaking your phone, as it increases the risk of hacking and skips security updates.
  13. Physical security: Keep your phone with you at all times to prevent unauthorized access. Don't leave it unattended, as physical access makes it easy for hackers to compromise your device.
  14. Unique and secure passwords: Use complex, unique passwords for your accounts. Avoid easily guessable PINs, and never reuse passwords. Consider using a password manager for convenience and enhanced security.

These 14 tips can significantly enhance your smartphone's security and protect your personal and professional data from threats and hacks.

How to know if your phone is hacked

Cell phones are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals. According to a report by cybersecurity firm Zimperium, more than 10 million mobile devices across 214 countries were attacked by mobile threats in 2021 alone.[2]

Thankfully, some signs can alert you that your phone has been compromised. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Your battery drains quickly.
  • Your phone slows down.
  • You notice strange things in your online accounts, like password changes, logins from weird places, or messages about new accounts.
  • There are unfamiliar outgoing calls and texts in your history.
  • Your phone is using too much data suddenly.
  • Apps are acting weird, not working correctly, or crashing often.
  • You’re experiencing lots of pop-up ads
  • New apps you didn't buy show up on your phone.

Any combination of these signs can signal a hacked phone.

How smartphones get hacked

Cybercriminals have gone mobile. Not familiar with the kinds of hacking that can occur on your phone? Now's the time to learn! The more informed you are, the less likely you are to be a victim.

Below are the most common cyberattacks on cell phones today:

Mobile spyware

Spyware is software that secretly installs itself on your device, monitoring and stealing your activity. Mobile spyware does this on phones — gathering messages, call logs, emails, and more. It can record keystrokes (keylogging) and audio, take pictures, track location, and even control the device.

Brute force attacks

Cyberattackers use brute force to crack passwords, decrypt encrypted data, and gain unauthorized access to systems, websites, or networks. It involves repeated trial and error attempts to guess the required information by testing every possible combination.

Rootkits

Rootkit malware is software that lets hackers take control of a computer network or app. It can open a backdoor for more malware like ransomware or keyloggers.

Trojans

A Trojan horse is malware that pretends to be legitimate software while actually being malicious. They can steal your data, access networks without permission, modify or delete your files, and even spy on your device.

Ransomware

Ransomware is malware that encrypts your files, making them inaccessible. Cybercriminals demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key.

Adware

Adware is unwanted software that bombards you with advertising messages, often through banner ads, pop-ups, or by redirecting your web browsing. These ads can access your device's information if you click on them.

Worms

This type of malware infects other devices while remaining active on infected systems. Cybercriminals can transmit worms through Short Message Service (SMS) or Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) text messages. Worms can replicate themselves hundreds or thousands of times.

Cryptojacking

Cryptojacking is when hackers secretly use your computer's power to mine cryptocurrency without your permission. They target various systems, like desktops and servers, and the code runs silently while you use your computer.

Clickjacking

Clickjacking tricks users into clicking on something different from what they see on a webpage. Users believe they interact with the real interface, but hidden controls perform unexpected actions, potentially leading to malware downloads, credential theft, or other harmful consequences.

Mobile phishing

Mobile phishing leverages smartphones and tablets to deliver malicious content through SMS attacks, fake voice calls, and app-based scams. These attacks aim to steal data like passwords, credit card details, or bank account information.

Wi-Fi jacking

Wi-Fi jacking, or the "man-in-the-middle" attack, involves cybercriminals impersonating public Wi-Fi networks to steal sensitive information. This includes passwords, emails, and credit card details. Even seemingly safe networks, like those at Starbucks or airports, can be fraudulent.

Bluetooth hacking

Hackers can access your data via Bluetooth when your phone is in range and maintain the connection throughout the attack. The five common Bluetooth hacks are Bluejacking, BlueBorne, Bluebugging, Bluetooth Impersonation Attacks, and Bluesnarfing.

SIM swapping

SIM swapping — a SIM hijacking attack — is a scheme where hackers gain control of your phone number, allowing them to intercept two-factor authentication codes and access your accounts. They achieve this by convincing mobile operators to activate a new SIM card on their devices, often using stolen or phished personal information.

Mobile viruses

Mobile viruses are self-replicating code that infects apps on your smartphone. Viruses are typically hidden in executable files and stay inactive until the victim triggers them, often by opening infected apps, downloading corrupt files, or clicking links.

Hacked phone FAQ


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Will resetting my phone remove hackers?

Resetting your phone can be an effective way to remove most types of malware and hacks. Remember that when you reset your phone, all your data, including photos, notes, and contacts, will be wiped clean, so back up your important files before resetting.

To reset an iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. First, back up your essential files.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Choose General, then go to Transfer or Reset iPhone, and finally, select Erase All Content and Settings.

For resetting an Android phone:

  1. The instructions can vary depending on your phone's manufacturer. It's best to check your phone maker's website for specific instructions.
  2. Generally, you can access the reset option on most Android phones through the Settings menu. Look for General Management to find the reset feature.

Advanced malware can conceal itself within your device's recovery partition, where factory restore settings are stored. Even if you perform a factory reset, this part remains untouched, allowing hidden viruses to persist. In some cases, regular antivirus software may fail to detect this type of malware. If you still need help, check out our guide on how to factory reset your phone.


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Does changing your password get rid of hackers?

If the hacker hasn't disabled your password-changing ability, changing your passwords can help stop further damage. However, if the hacker controls your device, you may be locked out of your accounts.


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Can hackers see through your phone's camera?

Hackers use your camera to spy on you, take photos, or even blackmail you, known as camfecting or simply camera hacking.

Here are signs that your phone’s camera has been hacked:

  • Strange files and sudden low storage space
  • Battery drains faster than normal
  • Background apps magically appear
  • Camera glitches or doesn’t work
  • Flashing camera indicator light

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What can hackers track on my phone?

If a hacker successfully installs spyware on your phone, they can track everything — your text strokes, text messages, camera activity, social media activity, emails, and calls.

Bottom line

We cannot overemphasize how important it is to protect your phone. To remove hackers, review app permissions, change passwords, clear your cache, run antivirus scans, and update software. Employ strong authentication methods and consider a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Always use official app stores, back up your data, and install reputable mobile security software. Watch for signs of a hacked phone. If all else fails, factory reset your phone as a last resort.

Ready to secure your smartphone from hackers? Download a trusted antivirus to secure your phone now.

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Author Details
Cheyenne Lightfoot is a freelance content writer specializing in the intersection between identity and access management and user privacy. As an account executive, she has helped small-to-medium-sized businesses prevent data breaches, safeguard sensitive information, and achieve compliance with passwordless multi-factor authentication software.

Citations

[1] 30 CRUCIAL CYBERSECURITY STATISTICS [2023]: DATA, TRENDS AND MORE

[2] 2022 Global Mobile Threat Report: Key Insights on the State of Mobile Security