There’s nothing wrong with wondering if someone is looking back through the other side of that mobile phone camera. It’s not paranoia. It’s not impossible. Security tools like passwords, face-recognition, mobile VPN’s, and antivirus software exist precisely because these things do happen.
Hackers use many ways to gain access to a phone, and it isn’t just to take a peek through the camera. Often, they employ keyloggers to steal passwords and screen-share to view secret information.
But there is a sickening trend that’s been growing steadily in the last few years: spying on people through their devices’ cameras. It’s a worrying thought – especially as these devices are always being carried along everywhere, even to the bathroom.
Read on to find out how malicious actors are accessing mobile phones and how to prevent a phone from being targeted.
How Are Mobile Phones Being Hacked?
A phone’s camera can be hacked, and there are plenty of ways to do it. From crummy apps with access to the camera to infected attachments – new exploits are being targeted every year. In fact, the list of known mobile malware variants increased by 54 percent in 2017 alone. It’s undoubtedly grown since then.
Here’s how attackers do it:
Invisible Remote Access Trojans
This is a type of malware that gets downloaded along with other downloads or is secretly downloaded in the background. The software is always hidden behind the pretense of being something else, either a download, attachment, or a link to a website. The RAT starts running in the background as soon as the download is complete or opened.
Most people only start becoming aware that something is amiss when their phone starts acting seemingly of its own volition. This happens because the person on the other side has complete control over the phone and access to everything. The problem is, these people usually don’t do anything suspicious so they can keep spying via the camera and microphone. Making it very hard to know when something’s afoot.
RAT software can make its way onto a phone via infected attachments, downloads, websites, or phishing tactics.
Spyware That Gives Agencies Backdoor Access
Not too long ago, the tech giant Apple and the FBI were publicly gridlocked in a test of wills. The FBI requested access to an iPhone and Apple refused, citing breach of privacy. In the end, the bureau relented because they got access to the info they wanted anyway through spyware.
Apple vowed to have fixed the hole that allowed the FBI to manipulate the iPhone’s software. But the damage had already been done. And the FBI isn’t the only government agency that has been spying on people through their phones. Just look at the massive fallout after Snowden revealed that the NSA was spying on people – and they most certainly haven’t stopped.
Hacked or Not? Watch For These Signs
Here are some signs to look out for. But keep in mind that hackers are smart and may be hiding their tracks.
-Unusual data usage, especially uploads.
-Photos and video are being taken without permission.
-Strange text messages.
-The phone unlocks itself.
-The battery drains faster than normal.
If any of these signs are present, it’s best to make back-ups of media and data, and then factory reset the phone.
Being Mindful: Take These Precautions
Digital Mindfulness is an alien concept even to many tech-savvy mobile users and digital natives. Probably because, even though everyone is aware of the dangers technology poses, they think it won’t affect them. The reality is, millions of people are being targeted all over the world every day, and often they don’t even know it.
This term refers to being mindful of online habits and how they open up one’s life to possible exploitation. A person who practices digital mindfulness has formed safe habits while using technology.
Consider the following safe habits:
Use a Strong Password
Random, long passwords are good deterrents to hackers. If using a pattern, make sure it isn’t an obvious one. Also, always make sure to have the phone screen locked when it’s not being used.
Get Friendly With Sticky Tape
It may be weird, but even Mark Zuckerberg and former FBI director James Comey do it. If they’re worried, then it’s a good idea to follow suit. When the camera is not in use, place a piece of tape over it.
Use a Mobile VPN
The VPN software is becoming more and more popular for many reasons, but it’s still a great security tool. There are plenty of mobile VPN’s to choose from, and they (at least the paid ones) will keep anyone safe from outside attack. A mobile VPN will encrypt all the data going out of and coming into the phone and hide its location. They make it nearly impossible for hackers to hitch a ride along.
Always Update to the Latest OS Version
Android and iOS often receive new security patches during OS updates. It’s important to keep up to date with these because they fix security flaws that attackers could already have been exploiting. Like in the case between Apple and the FBI.
Staying safe in a world that’s always getting more complicated may seem daunting. But sometimes a little paranoia is a good thing and reminds people to remain vigilant. To stay safe, make sure to follow these security tips and use mobile phones in a mindful way.