There are several ways to fix a hacked Android phone, ranging from deleting suspicious apps and files to conducting a full factory reset. Which option is best depends on the nature of the hack and the degree of damage, though tech-savviness also plays a role.
A hacked Android phone leaves users vulnerable to identity theft, stolen credentials, lost data, and much more. While many assume their risk is low, that often isn’t the case. In 2020, news broke that more than one billion devices were at risk since they weren’t receiving security updates. Additionally, malicious apps can infect devices, allowing them to steal personal data, alter device functions, and make other harmful changes.
Fortunately, it’s possible to restore the integrity of the device. Here’s a look at # ways to fix a hacked Android phone.
1. Uninstall Suspicious Apps
Many Android hacks rely on malicious apps. As a result, deleting the offending app from the device may sever the hacker’s connection to your phone. Plus, the process is straightforward, making it a good place to start.
Go to Settings
On the main screen of your Android device, swipe down from the top to bring up the popup menu. Tap the gear icon to get into the settings menu.
Head to Apps
Once you’re in the Settings section, scroll down until you see Apps. Tap it to open the apps list.
Scroll Through the Apps
Once you have the apps list, scroll through the list looking for anything suspicious. You’ll likely see a lot of listings that aren’t initially familiar, but that doesn’t mean they’re all problematic.
In some cases, hackers aren’t creative with the names of the malicious apps, so you might see words like “spy” or “monitor” in them. However, others do a better job at making an app seem legitimate at a glance. As a result, it’s wise to research the name of any app that you don’t recognize to determine if it could be malware.
Uninstall the App
If an app is malicious, tap on the name in the list. Then, look for Uninstall. Tap it to delete the app from your device.
There are situations where the Uninstall option isn’t present. Usually, it’s because those apps are protected with administrator privileges. Often, apps present in the default build – particularly those associated with critical functions – don’t have the Uninstall option. However, hackers may put that setting into malicious apps, too.
For malicious apps that don’t have an uninstall option, you’ll need to update the access. Go to Settings, tap on Biometrics and Security, scroll down to Other Security Settings, and tap it. Tap Device Admin Apps and see if the malicious app is on the list. If so, toggle it to off before going back to Settings, Apps, and trying to Uninstall it again.
2. Delete Suspicious Files
Another option for finding malicious code on your device is to go through your files and directories. This process may reveal infections that aren’t as clear through the app section. As a result, it’s wise to go through this step even if you used the process above to uninstall suspicious apps.
Open Your App Directory
Swipe up from the bottom of your main screen to bring up your app directory.
Search for My Files
Once in your app directory, use the search bar to find My Files. Tap the My Files icon to open it.
Open Internal Storage
In the Storage section, tap on Internal Storage. That brings up a subdirectory with folders for various types of files stored on your device.
Reveal All Files
At the top of the list, you’ll see a dropdown menu. Make sure it says All instead of Essentials. If you see Essentials, tap it and switch it to All
Get to the Right Folder
With all of the files listed, tap on Android. Then, open the Data folder.
Review the Listed Files
Review the listed files to see if there’s anything suspicious. If you find a name that you can’t logically determine is legitimate, Google it to figure out whether it’s malicious. If so, delete the file.
3. Clear the Cache
In some cases, clearing the cache on your device is worthwhile. Along with potentially speeding up your device and legitimate apps, it could eliminate stored data that’s connected to hacks.
Clearing your cache removes temporarily stored files. Often, these files linger far longer than users expect, and they can add up quickly. At times, deleting caches can free up a significant amount of space, and it may delete malicious temporary files along the way.
Head to Battery and Device Care
From the home screen, swipe down and tap the gear icon to open settings. Scroll down to Battery and Device Care and tap it to open that section.
Tap the Memory section. Once you do, the device will perform a quick analysis, giving you to clean up your cache based on Apps Not Recently Used. If you tap Apps Not Recently Used, you’ll get a list of any apps.
From there, you can tap apps to delete select caches. Tap the app, tap Storage, and then tap Clear Cache.
Alternatively, you can go back to the main Memory section and tap Clean Now to handle all of the caches at once. If you want to maintain specific caches, go to Excluded Apps, tap the plus (+) sign, and tap the circle next to the apps you want to preserve. Head back to the Memory section and then tap Clean Now.
Clear Entire Device Cache (Optional)
You do have the option of clearing your entire device cash at once. Begin by turning off your phone. Next, you’ll need to hold two buttons at once. Which ones may vary depending on your device model, so research how to access Recovery Mode on your device.
Once you hold the buttons, you’ll either see an Android mascot or the Google logo. Wait until you see No Command, then you’ll need to do another button combination. Refer to the Recovery Mode instructions for your device to find out which ones.
After getting into Recovery Mode, you can use the volume buttons to navigate the menu. Find the option for Wipe Cache Partition, select it, confirm, and restart your device.
4. Perform a Virus Scan
Antimalware software designed for smartphones can identify threats and correct certain infections. If you already have a security solution on your phone or are able to download one from a reputable source, you can use a virus scan to potentially remove the malicious code the hacker placed on your device.
The exact process does vary depending on the antivirus solution you use. However, you typically need to open the app and initiate a full scan to identify threats. After the scan is finished, you can tell the app to remove anything malicious it identifies.
There are plenty of free antimalware apps available from leading device security companies. Lookout, AVG, and Avast are prime examples, so consider starting with one of those if you don’t currently have a security app on your device.
5. Perform a Complete Factory Reset
A factory reset restores your phone to its original configuration, removing all downloaded apps, restoring default settings, and deleting all of the stored data essentially. Usually, this is a last resort, as you’ll lose all of your locally stored files, contacts, and photos. Plus, you’ll have to redownload any apps you want and log into them.
Still, if your Android phone is hacked and nothing else is working, it’s practically a guaranteed solution. As a result, it’s worth keeping on the table.
Connect Your Device to a Charger
Ensuring your device has power during the entire factory reset process is essential. As a result, it’s best to connect it to a charger before beginning.
Go to Settings to Reach General Management
From the main screen, swipe down to reveal the popup menu. Tap the gear icon to get to Settings. Then, scroll down and tap General Management.
Initiate Factory Data Reset
In General Management, tap the Reset option. In the Reset menu, tap Factory Data Reset. At the bottom of the list, tap the Reset button. Enter your PIN, pattern, password, or other access option. Finally, tap Delete All
Wait for the Reset to Complete
After tapping Delete All, the factory reset process will begin. The exact amount of time it takes to finish varies depending on your smartphone model and the amount of stored data. It usually completes in about 10 minutes, but it may take an hour in some situations.
Once the factory reset is finished, your phone will be back to its original state. You can then proceed with the setup process to get everything back in order.
How to Tell If Your Android Phone Was Hacked
While some signs of a hacked Android phone are obvious, others are subtle. If you’re wondering whether your phone is hacked, here are some ways to find out.
Malicious activity often happens in the background, so it can strain your battery more than typical usage. If your battery is draining faster than usual or feels hot, even if it’s been sitting unused for a period, it’s possible malware is running in the background.
You can check your battery usage by going to Settings, tapping Battery, and tapping Battery Usage.
High data usage not related to your activities is another potential red flag, as malicious apps and code may send or receive information frequently. Head to Settings, tap Connections or Data and Internet (depending on your device), and tap Data Usage or App Data Usage.
From there, you can check Mobile Data Usage and Wi-Fi Data Usage. Those sections let you to see how much data you’re using and which apps are using it, making it easier to see if something anomalous is occurring.
If your phone is acting oddly, that could indicate a malware infection or hack. Uncharacteristically slow performance, strange popups telling you to click a button to remove a virus, or suspicious ads are all red flags.
Repeated app or phone crashes are other types of odd behavior that could indicate an issue. Apps opening on their own may also occur due to malicious code on your device. The same is true for constant data transmissions or the spontaneous initiation of location services.
Essentially, if your Android phone is acting differently, it’s cause for concern. While some strange behavior could relate to other problems – such as hardware failures or corrupted software – you’ll want to check for malware as part of the troubleshooting process.
Suspicious Apps and Files
Apps or files you don’t recall installing or downloading are another sign of a potential hack. Malicious websites or apps may initial downloads on their own, so check your app list and the My Files section of your device to look for anything you didn’t put on your device. If you don’t recognize an app or file name, Google it to determine if it’s malicious.