Hackers are attacking smartphones more than ever, which means you need to educate yourself on how to get rid of malware on your phone. Researchers with a mobile cybersecurity firm called Zimperium discovered 2 million new mobile malware strains in 2021. That means over 5,000 new strains popped up every single day of the year.
To say things are getting bad would be the understatement of the year. Things don’t seem to be getting any better in 2022, so you should regularly check your devices for malware. Tap or click here to detect and remove malware from your computer.
Your phone is especially at risk. Malware hit over 10 million phones across 214 countries, Zimperium found. SIM swapping is one of the biggest threats out there, which is why we’re sharing five specific ways to protect your phone from this threat. Whenever you have mobile malware on your mind, whip out this checklist and follow each step to protect yourself!
1. Enter a passcode when you change your SIM card
If you’ve never been a victim of SIM swapping, you should do two things. First, count your lucky stars. Second, call up your phone provider and set up a PIN, so you never become a victim.
Here’s a quick review if you’ve never heard of SIM swapping. Scammers break into your phone by transferring the data on your SIM card onto one of their own. They do this by calling your mobile provider, pretending to be you, and linking your phone number to the SIM card in their phone.
Your mobile carrier then deactivates your SIM card. That means the criminal gets access to your phone number.
This access allows criminals to send forgotten passwords or account recovery requests to your email and other online accounts associated with your mobile phone number.
Now the crooks will receive 2FA codes intended for you, which gives them access to your online accounts. The criminal uses the codes to log in and reset passwords, gaining control of online accounts associated with your phone profile.
You may think, “My mobile carrier would never fall for that!” Actually, it happens all the time, according to the FBI. The bureau says SIM swapping schemes cost victims more than $68 million in 2021.
How to set up a PIN or passcode for your wireless account
To protect yourself, contact your mobile carrier or head to its website. Make sure to set up a PIN or passcode that you have to enter to make changes to your SIM card. Now, criminals will have to know this PIN to break into your device.
The specific steps depend on which carrier you use. Many carriers have different names for this service. For example, AT&T calls this feature Extra Security.
How to turn on Extra Security to get SIM protection with AT&T
- Head to your Profile.
- Tap or click Sign-in info.
- Select your wireless account from the dropdown menu.
- In the Wireless passcode section, select Manage extra security.
- Check extra security and re-enter your passcode to confirm it.
- Check or uncheck extra security and re-enter your passcode if prompted.
How to get SIM protection with Verizon’s Number Lock feature
Verizon’s Number Lock feature literally locks your account. Your number can’t be ported to another carrier until you move the lock. Follow these steps to turn it on:
- Sign into your Verizon account online.
- Head to the Number Lock page.
- You’ll see your mobile phone number(s). Select On.
SIM swap attack prevention with T-Mobile phone
If you’re on T-Mobile or Metro by T-Mobile, you can set up a PIN or passcode for your SIM card. The feature is called Account Takeover Protection. To activate this feature, follow these steps:
- Sign into your T-Mobile account online.
- Under My Line, tap or click View Details.
- Head to the Lines and Devices section.
- Then, tap or click on the specific line you want to protect.
- Select Manage Add-ons.
From there, you can select Account Takeover Protection. Tap or click here for a direct link.
This is just the first step in your protection journey, though. These steps stop people from porting your number out … but there are still more ways to fight against SIM swaps. Check them out below.
2. Set up a PIN as an extra layer of security
This quick trick doesn’t require any outreach to your mobile carrier, unlike the first step. Just root through your phone’s settings, and you can set up a PIN as an extra layer of security.
On an iPhone, head to Settings > Cellular > SIM PIN. Slide the toggle next to SIM PIN to the right to enable it. If asked, enter your SIM PIN. If you’ve never used one, enter the default SIM PIN from your network provider.
If you don’t know the default SIM PIN, don’t try to guess it. Check your network provider’s customer service page or the documents that came with your wireless plan. Or you can contact your network provider.
On an Android, go to Settings > More > Security > Set up SIM card lock.
That way, if a criminal ever tries to impersonate you, they’ll have to prove their identity by using your secret code.
RELATED: SIM swapping is one of the most dangerous phone hacks – And it’s on the rise
3. When you have the option to set up biometric security, take it
Some criminals will even impersonate you at one of your phone carrier’s physical stores, according to Veridas. Say you use Verizon. A SIM swapper may walk into a Verizon store with a forged ID and a fake police report. He’ll spin some tall tale to the Verizon worker, and just like that, your SIM card is swapped.
That’s why you should take advantage of biometric authentication features. This can include scanning your fingerprint, your eyeball or even your face. Criminals can’t recreate that.
4. Tell your carrier to only port your number when you show up in person
This is another option to take advantage of. Your carrier may not offer it, so call them to make sure. Ask the customer service rep to have a note placed on your account.
This note will tell your carrier only to port your number if you show up in person. This is another reason why you should use biometrics. Even if someone does impersonate you, they can’t port your number because they don’t have your finger, eyeball or face. (Knock on wood!)
5. Use authenticator apps instead of 2FA
One great way to protect your important accounts is by using two-factor authentication (2FA). Whenever you log into your account, you have to confirm your identity by answering a prompt on another device. It stonewalls scammers because while they may know your password, they can’t intercept the 2FA text or email sent to you.
All of that goes out the window when SIM swapping is involved. When a criminal remotely takes over your phone, all login confirmations go to their phone. You’ve lost control of your iPhone or Android.
Thus, we recommend using authenticator apps. They generate one-time codes you use to log into accounts. The best part is that the codes generate within the app.
Essentially, it’s harder to break into an account you secured with an authenticator. An attacker would need to know your secret key. Oh, and they would also need to be able to break into the encryption algorithm. Tap or click here for our simple and easy guide to authenticator apps.
Bonus: Use a password manager to help yourself remember all your strong, original passwords
Here’s an excellent way to get rid of malware on your phone. It’s a solid defense plan, so criminals can’t get into your phone in the first place. A long, complex, hard-to-guess password can do you a world of good.
Just remember: You can’t reuse the same password. It would be best if you created original passwords for each account. Those can be hard to remember. Luckily, you don’t have to.
With a password manager, you can put everything in one place. Our IT geniuses swear by LastPass. If John and Jeremy’s words weren’t enough, trust our content queen, Allie. She swears by this app.