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  • Identity criminals can compromise people’s phones and devices through weaknesses in the device operating software, applications and SIM swaps.
  • To protect your device from a tablet or phone hack, automatically download patches and software updates as soon as they are available, set up your lock screen to use biometrics or a password/passcode/PIN, enable “Find My…” device features, only download apps from the device manufacturer’s app stores, and avoid public Wi-Fi if possible.
  • You will know if you suffered a tablet or phone hack if you can’t make or receive calls, access your device, or there are calls and text messages that you did not initiate. Certain kinds of malware can also slow your device and result in your battery draining faster.
  • If you believe you’ve been compromised, pull out your SIM card, contact your carrier and be prepared to reset your phone or tablet.
  • To learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can speak with an advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

As phones and tablets become more and more like portable mini-computers and the world moves towards digital versions of paper documents and currency, more personal data is stored on our devices. This makes them attractive targets for thieves who want to steal or sell your information or impersonate you, which could lead to you having your tablet or phone hacked. Many people are afraid of being hacked, but does being “hacked” truly mean?

People think of being hacked as a third-party gaining access to a device through some highly specialized technology where they’re able to crack passwords and get around device security. When it comes to tablet and phone hacks, that usually isn’t the case. Unfortunately, it can be much simpler than that for a thief to gain access to a device because of our own behaviors.

How They Access Your Device (While You Still Have It)

  • Through known weaknesses in the device software – those software update notices you get are to patch those weaknesses and add new features. If the device doesn’t have the latest update, it’s open to known vulnerabilities.
  • Through downloads – app downloads or clicking on links that download software.
  • SIM swap – a criminal calls your carrier pretending to be you and moves your phone number and backup data to another device.

How to Protect Yourself or Your Mobile Device

  • Download patches and software updates as they become available.
  • Only download apps from approved app stores from the maker of your device (Google, Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, for example). These apps have been through a review process to help ensure your safety and security. Some devices and applications are more security and privacy respectful than others. Be sure to do your research first.
    • Look at the data collection notice – the more data they want to collect from you, the less legitimate the app developer may be.
    • Look for apps that have high ratings from a large number of people.
    • Watch out for apps that tell you to download directly from their site instead of through a manufacturer’s app store.
  • Don’t download apps directly from a website. Cybercriminals create legitimate-looking websites with malware-filled applications for download. The only way to reduce your risk of a tablet or phone hack is to avoid direct downloads and rely on your device maker’s app store.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi for your mobile devices or laptop.

How to Protect Your Device If It’s Lost or Stolen

  • Report your mobile phone or SIM card-enabled tablet as stolen to your mobile carrier. The carrier can disable the service and recognize the device if someone tries to connect it to a new or different account.
  • Make sure you have the “Find My…” device enabled for your phone, tablet and smartwatch. If your device is lost or stolen and the SIM card has not been removed, you can locate the device or disable it so it cannot be used until returned. If the SIM card has been removed, that defeats the “Find My” feature.
  • Set up your lock screen to use biometrics, a password, or passcode (PIN). This will make your device difficult, if not virtually impossible, to compromise depending on the device maker.

How to Know if Your Device Was Compromised

  • You can’t make outbound calls or receive inbound calls.
  • You can’t open your device or access your apps.
  • There are outbound calls or texts not initiated by you.
  • You’re using more data than usual.
  • Your battery is draining faster than normal, but you’re still using the device the same amount of time, performing the same tasks as usual.

What to Do if You’ve Been “Hacked”

  • Pull your SIM card.
  • Contact your carrier for a mobile phone or tablet with a SIM card.
  • Be prepared to reset your phone or tablet if asked by your carrier. You can usually do this through your phone account or restore your device to the factory settings.
  • If your tablet is Wi-Fi only, contact your device maker’s support department.
  • Be careful if using a backup to restore your settings. Your backup may include malware, so consider only restoring your data and not your applications. You can reload the latest versions of your applications from the original app store.

Contact the ITRC

If you believe you have suffered a tablet or phone hack and want to learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can speak with an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.