It is safe to say that the smartphone is the most used electronic device in today’s time. Within this smartphone universe, Apple’s iPhone is undoubtedly the leader. People have their entire lives ‘ digital footprint either stored or passing through these devices. Having said that, how many of us wonder about the safety and security of these devices that we use to store and share all our important and personal details?
In this article, we will focus on the security and vulnerabilities of the iPhone.
The topics covered in this article are:
What is iPhone Hacking?
iPhone hacking occurs when an unauthorized person taking advantage of particular vulnerabilities gains access to your device or controls your device without your consent.
Apple, fortunately, fixes these vulnerabilities 90% of the time. However, hundreds of thousands of iPhones may still be at risk of being hacked using the remaining 10% vulnerabilities.
Any device that runs programs of any kind is susceptible to hacking. How simple it is to hack a device is determined by how well the underlying operating system is designed or coded.
Even though iOS is well-designed and coded, with several layers of security, it is not 100% hack-proof; there are always instances where you are at risk of your iPhone being hacked.
What are some common issues that increase the risk of your iPhone being hacked?
It is unfortunate but true that any data, regardless of how safe it is stored, can be hacked. The complexity of hacking a specific data set varies depending on the quality of security. When it comes to iPhones, they have done some fantastic R&D in terms of phone security.
The iPhone is well-known for its security and ability to keep hackers out of your personal information.
It features a built-in auto data encryption mechanism that automatically encrypts data when a set amount of time has passed.
However, as shown in a recent Business Insider article, 86 percent of iPhones globally are still subject to a security flaw that allows a hacker to control the device with only a text message. Apple has confirmed that all iPhones and MACs are vulnerable to hacking.
Here are some common issues that increase your risk
- By getting messages from unexpected sources after jailbreaking your iPhone and forcing external applications to override the system settings.
- Using out-of-date software for an extended length of time
- Connecting to WiFi hotspots without using HTTPS, the hotspot owner can see everything you do on your device. Even if you use HTTPS, they can track the websites you visit and create a profile.
- Not updating Apple IOS which contains bug fixes and latest security patches
In most cases, unless you have jailbroken your smartphone, gaining unauthorized access to your phone will usually necessitate physical access to your iOS device because no one (except developers) can load their programs without going thru the App Store. This is based on the assumption that all apps on the App Store are reliable, which Apple’s app review process attempts to assure but cannot guarantee. It’s also possible that there’s a fault in iOS or the core programs that would allow a hacker to gain access, which is why it’s critical to remain current with Apple’s fixes and updates.
Recent examples of iPhone hacks that have occurred in the real world
The San Bernadino shooter-
Syed Rizwan Farook came into his employer’s buildings at the Inland Regional Office in San Bernardino, California, and murdered 14 people. The FBI attempted to force Apple to open Farook’s iPhone 5C to collect possible evidence, resulting in one of the most meaningful stories in the history of technology privacy. When Apple’s stock fell in early 2016, it sparked a lengthy legal battle between James Comey’s FBI and Tim Cook’s Cupertino behemoth. Apple garnered support from Silicon Valley competitors such as Amazon and Google, while the FBI received support from Republican presidential contender Donald Trump.
We don’t know who ultimately assisted the FBI in cracking the gadget. shortly after, the government responded to a Freedom of Information Act request with 100 heavily redacted documents. According to Comey’s statements, whoever shattered the phone made off with upwards of $1.3 million. It’s safe to presume that iPhones are still vulnerable to whatever hack was used.
The first jailbreak-
The jailbreaking activity in which hackers take control of an iPhone from Apple is still going strong. But how did it all begin?
According to prominent iOS security specialist Jonathan Zdziarski, the “Dropbear” attack in 2007 was the product of a community effort in which he was involved. Here he is, using the alias NerveGas, ten years ago, on a hacking forum:
According to Zdziarski, the jailbreak comprised “a type of shell game” in where their own files were switched out for Apple’s official ones. It finally gave the iPhone owner root access via a secure shell (SSH), allowing them to add and delete applications at will.
Zdziarski said, “It was a total team effort.” “About course, we were all afraid of Apple suing us back then, so nobody used their real names.”
As jailbreaking proliferated in the initial periods of the iPhone, hacker names became signifiers of a culture rather than anonymizers. A never-ending cat and mouse game arose as hackers broke through Apple’s security safeguards meant to keep gadgets under its control.
Jailbreakme, built by then-teenager and prospective Apple employee Nicholas Allegra, who known only by his alias Comex, was one of the most essential jailbreaks of those heady days. The first was released in 2007, with sequels following in 2010 and 2011. Allegra regarded his iPhone as “extremely unsafe” when FORBES talked with him in 2011, just after the third generation.
According to many in the community, Apple has improved much since then, but jailbreaks continue to flood the market as worldwide research teams attempt to peel away the extra levels of protection.
Hack using a single text-
In July 2016, Cisco Talos analyst Tyler Bohan discovered a severe flaw in ImageIO used by iOS to process picture data in another one-text attack. The exploit would run quietly as soon as a media message was received and pass over authentication to the hacker, however, it was corrected before it became a problem.
It’s “a highly severe flaw, equivalent to Android Stagefright in terms of exposure,” according to Bohan. Given how regularly Google Android vulnerabilities are discovered, this was a timely reminder to anyone who was slacking iPhone security.
How can you tell if your iPhone has been hacked?
Our cellphones have become an essential part of our everyday lives, changing how we communicate with each other across the globe. We keep all of our most critical, personal, and highly confidential on a single device.
If your phone has been hacked, the hacker may have direct access to all of your personal information, photographs, and videos, and they may even be able to monitor your actual location. It is undoubtedly a terrible experience to have your privacy breached.
This is why it is imperative to be aware of some crucial signs that can help you investigate or determine if your iPhone has been hacked
You may easily and quickly identify whether or not your cellphone has been hacked by following and verifying the items on this list.
However, before we get there, would you please keep in mind that these are just symptoms that may be an indication that your iPhone has been hacked? Noticing these symptoms does not necessarily mean that your iPhone has been compromised, but they warrant some closer attention to confirm that your device and data are safe.
1) Your battery isn’t as long-lasting as it once was.
It’s natural for a battery to degrade and become less effective with time, but this happens over the years. Something is amiss if you’ve just had your phone for a few months.
2) You’re consuming significantly more data than average.
Most of us don’t use all of our bandwidth every month, but if you’ve been over your monthly limit unexpectedly and frequently, it might indicate that something is wrong.
3) Your iPhone is behaving strangely.
Suppose your phone has been behaving oddly without you running programs that need much computational power or you’ve been receiving unusual text messages. In that case, it could be a sign of a problem.
4) Your iPhone has been jailbroken.
This is a little more sophisticated, some people voluntarily get their iPhone jailbroken for reasons best known to them but assuming that is not the case with you, and you notice some strange applications on your phone that weren’t there before (for example, a 3rd party app store named “Cydia”), it mostly means that your iPhone has been jailbroken without your consent, jailbroken phones allow unauthorized code to run on them which significantly increase your risk.
5) Apps for Enterprise or Developers have been installed.
If you notice any applications (not knowingly installed by you) that permit the device to utilize developer versions of software, it could indicate foul play. The Enterprise or Developer apps can make it feasible for a hacker to get past Apple’s security measures on iOS.
6) Surprise pop-ups.
While not all pop-up notifications imply that your phone has been hacked, they might signal that your phone has also been infected with adware, a type of malware that pushes devices to see specific pages to generate income through clicks. Even if a pop-up isn’t the product of a hacked phone, many of them might be phishing links designed to trick users into entering personal information or downloading additional software.
7) An unusual amount of activities on any accounts linked with the device.
A hacker who obtains access to your mobile phone has access to all of your profiles, including social networking sites, email, and a range of lifestyle and productivity apps. This might appear as account activity such as changing a password, emailing, identifying unread emails that you don’t remember receiving, or signing up for new accounts that send you authentication emails.
8) Outgoing calls or texts you didn’t send.
Be cautious if you notice lists of calls or texts from numbers you don’t recognize – these might be premium-rate lines that spyware is forcing your phone to contact, with the revenue going to the cybercriminal’s pocket. Also if a hacker gains access to the SS7 network, which is used by telcos to route your calls and SMS messages, they will be able to monitor all of your calls, divert them, intercept them, as well as view your voicemail and SMS messages.
How can you protect yourself from an iPhone hack?
Here are some tips to get you started.
1) Install a safe browsing or secure cloud application for your iPhone. If you have the money, I would recommend buying a premium one. There are some good free applications as well. My program of choice is Kaspersky. Bitdefender is another good antivirus application that I have used in the past.
2) Only use Bluetooth when it’s necessary. Otherwise, please turn it off to protect yourself from Bluetooth assaults.
3) Switch to another browser, such as Epic, Brave, or Firefox Focus. I suggest Brave since it comes pre-configured with all of the security settings you’ll need. Also try to use private browsing whenever possible. See video below from Apple Support on how to use Private Browsing.
4) Clear your browser’s cookies, history, and cache regularly, if not daily.
5) If you often use public WiFi, such as those at Starbucks, get a VPN. If you don’t have a VPN, don’t utilize public hotspots. Nord VPN comes highly recommended by me. Although PIA VPN is equally fantastic, I believe that Nord is quicker and more secure.
6)Only use the app store to download applications.
7) On your lock screen, create a complicated password that includes a combination of capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
8) App locks are a good option if you want more security. Apps may be secured using a password or your fingerprints.
9) Make sure your local network is protected with WPA2 AES and has a strong password.
10) Pay attention to the permissions granted by the program. Disable any app permissions that aren’t necessary.
What should you do if your iPhone has been hacked?
It’s not always easy to determine whether your phone has been hacked, but if you suspect your phone has been hacked, there are couple of things you can do to prevent further damanage and take control of the situation
1) Investigate installed apps.
The first thing to do is to look for any apps that you don’t remember downloading. On your iPhone, navigate to Settings and scroll down to see all of the apps on your device.
2) Contact your carrier.
If you are no longer receiving your wireless bill or see unknown numbers or calls on your bill or if a location tracking app shows an incorrect location for your phone, it could mean that your SIM card has been cloned. In this case, you should contact your carrier and let them know that you suspect your SIM has been cloned; they will help in shutting down the cloned SIM and provide you with a legitimate one. When working with the career, ensure that all your data on the file is still accurate. It is always good to ask the carrier to use a secondary number or a secret pin as confirmation before making any changes or servicing any requests.
3) Turn off WiFi and avoid going online on an infected device.
Turn off WiFi on your device and avoid going online on an infected device. If the hacker is in the process of uploading your data or downloading additional backdoors onto your device, turning off the WiFi may prevent or slow down these operations and buy you more time.
4) Contact your bank and credit card companies.
Almost every device today has programs that are linked to bank cards. Many people use their phones to carry out financial transactions. Suppose you suspect your phone has been hacked. In that case, you should immediately call all banks/financial institutions/Credit card companies and let them know, request them to cancel your cards, issue you new ones, ask them to monitor your accounts and not approve any charges you haven’t authorized.
5) Install and run a mobile Antivirus program.
Install an Antivirus program and use it to scan your phone for viruses. Pay special attention to any suspicious applications or programs that have been installed that you do not recognize. Most of the time, it is via these malicious applications that hackers access your data remotely.
6) Restore the default settings.
Attempt to clear the data and restore the factory settings. Even if the hacker malware manages to get past the antivirus, this will aid in the removal of the infection.
The idea of a hacked phone is unsettling, but the best part is that you can take actions to prevent it (or fix it if it has already occurred). Keep a close eye on your phone’s activities and be cautious about what you click, download, and save.