Security is a constant concern in today’s world, when technology can easily work with or against our safety. Everyone carries a smartphone these days, with a growing 2.32 billion users who access private information on their device daily.
The question is, who else is accessing that private information? In 2016, hackers targeted nearly a million Android phones–and that statistic isn’t even considering phones with other operating systems such as Apple or Windows.
Luckily, there are ways to tell whether your smartphone has been hacked. If any activity on your phone seems suspicious, run a few quick checks to make sure that your phone’s security is on the up-and-up. Let’s start from the beginning:
Make yourself aware of common signs that your phone is being monitored. Knowing all these codes doesn’t help if you don’t know what abnormal activity looks like, and therefore don’t know when or how to use them. Warning signs include:
This isn’t an exhaustive list of potential signs and signals that you’re being hacked, but it should give you a good idea so you can make common-sense decisions about what’s normal and what isn’t. Next: what action should you take if you notice a red flag?
Smartphone codes are a built-in feature that lets you access secret information, often related to the security of your phone. Using a smartphone code couldn’t be easier: simply go to the call dialer app and dial the smartphone code exactly as it’s pictured. The tricky part is actually knowing that codes exist in the first place (you’re ahead of the game now!), and then knowing which code you need to use.
Here are the most important codes for finding out if your smartphone has been hacked:
Before you do anything, knowing your IMEI number is important, so use this code to find out what it is. Your IMEI number is a unique code directly tied to your specific piece of hardware. If your phone is compromised, knowing your IMEI number is vital for filing a police report or taking legal action, not to mention finding your phone if it’s stolen.
Dial this code before you need to and keep your IMEI number somewhere safe, such as an encrypted note app.
If you suspect that your calls and texts aren’t getting through, it’s entirely possible that they’re being intercepted somewhere down the line. Call redirections are more common than you’d think, with CryptoPhone users finding fake cell towers all over the United States as far back as 2014.
Put this suspicion to rest by dialing *#62*. Your phone returns a concise list of numbers that are receiving your voice calls, SMS messages, and data as redirections. If you’re lucky, that list is empty; but if not, then you know it’s time to take action to get your privacy back. We’ll get to the “how” soon enough.
A call diversion is similar to a call redirection, but it’s harder to detect. While a redirection shows up on your phone bill (because your phone number technically receives the call before forwarding it on to another number), a diversion cancels the call before it reaches your number and then places it to another number, never showing up on your call logs.
Additionally, while redirections are often the result of a fake cell tower interfering, a diversion is the result of someone directly tampering with your phone itself. If you have your calls diverted, then it’s probably because of an angry ex-fiancé or a malicious stranger who borrowed your phone under the guise of making an emergency call.
Luckily, you can still detect diversions by dialing *#21#. Just like the redirection code, this code asks your phone to return a list of information that tells you what numbers are receiving your calls, messages, and data.
Okay… so first, what’s a utility netmonitor, anyway?
Let’s break it down. A utility netmonitor is a packet analyzer that captures network data, so in short, everything that your phone receives and sends, including location data.
That means you can pinpoint the geographic location of the person who’s accessing your information if they’re using a mobile basic station, which can really help if you need to file a police report.
When you enter the code *#*#197328640#*#*, your phone gives you access to the main menu, from which you can select UMTS Cell Environment > UMTS RR Information. Write down the cell ID number that you see.
Next, return to the main menu by hitting your phone’s back button twice. Choose MM Information > Serving PLMN. Write down your local area code that appears.
Finally, go to a netmonitor website (OpenCellID is a good one) and enter both your cell ID and local area code. It’ll give you the location where your phone’s connecting.
If you’ve been hacked, there are a few steps you can take to re-secure your information and protect yourself.
First, if the redirection code indicates that calls are being redirected, dial ##002#, which automatically undoes all redirection commands.
Second, run a full system restore on your phone, wiping it completely. But first, encrypt your data so it’s fully protected. On most phones, these settings are under Settings > Security. It may take a few hours, so make sure your phone is plugged in. It can lead to permanent damage if the battery drains to nothing while encrypting and wiping your phone.
Third, take precautions to keep your smartphone safe from future hacks. Install a reputable antivirus app and run scans on a regular basis to detect malware and suspicious apps before they have a chance to wreak havoc on your personal information. You should be vigilant about opening links in e-mails and text messages (a common source of phishing hacks) and never leave your phone alone in the presence of strangers or people you don’t trust.
Recognizing a hack is tricky if you aren’t already aware of the red flags, but educating yourself on abnormal phone behavior and learning to do your own diagnostics via smartphone codes is a great way to minimize the risk in the future. Now that you’re armed with this vital security knowledge, you can take smartphone security into your own hands.