CLEVELAND — Cyber security experts are on high alert after a surge in hacks and malware have been reported on smartphones across the United States.
According to national data, four million households have been victims of some sort of account fraud with 58% of that happening within the last year.
Experts say hackers have shifted away from computers and are now laser-focused on cell phones.
“This is your everything. It’s how I get everywhere. It’s how I know what time it is!” said Alivia Wheeler.
Cleveland State University student and Northwest Ohio native Wheeler says her cell phone is a critical part of her everyday life.
It’s that of a safety net, and she admits she would be lost without it.
“I feel like it would be a big transition to just not have it,” said Wheeler.
Cybercriminals have taken notice and are capitalizing on what has become our most valued possession.
“A lot of people’s lives are happening on their phone. So, the phone becomes a very attractive place to attack for hackers and spammers,” said Alex Hamerstone, Advisory Solutions Director at TrustedSec.
Corrupt PDF files, questionable downloads, and spoof websites that initially appear legitimate can all slow down your smartphone and steal your data.
Hamerstone says most smartphone users may be completely unaware they’ve fallen victim to hacks so pay attention to the following:
- If your battery is draining at a rapid rate.
- Popups are spamming your phone in apps and websites.
- Your data usage is through the roof despite you not using any more than normal.
- Your phone is running extremely slow.
Wheeler who grew up with a cell phone by her side since she was little was caught by surprise.
“Did you have any indication of the warning signs behind potentially being hacked? Not really. Other than just the things your parents tell you.”
She wasn’t alone.
“No, Totally clueless,” said Maria Bashardoust, a Cleveland State University student.
Cyber security experts say there are a number of ways to protect your cell phone and personal information.
- Turning on two-factor authentication on all devices so it’s harder to gain access to accounts/you’re tipped off to questionable behavior.
- Always use a passcode on your phone.
- Never use the same passwords for every website and change the passwords regularly.
- Don’t click on questionable sites—like ones sent out in spam texts from a random number.
- Update your smartphone software when your provider rolls out the latest download.
“These updates are generally in response to issues, right? They’re not fixing things for no reason. Sometimes they come out to kind of improve the user experience or add a new feature, but oftentimes they’re bundled with a security enhancement,” said Hamerstone.
If you think your phone has been hacked, contact your cell phone provider.
They can auto reset your device and wipe it clean.
Experts say it’s so important to back up your cell phone and save numbers in the instance your phone is compromised.