How to tell if someone is accessing your iPhone remotely
The iPhone is a popular choice for users due to its ease of use, simple and intuitive operating system, and the reliability of Apple devices. But like all mobile devices, it may be at risk of remote access by malicious users without appropriate security measures.
If a hacker does successfully remotely access your device, they may be able to install spyware that enables them to discover passwords and credentials. If you are using a company device, this information can be used to gain access to business apps, networks, and systems—allowing them to see or steal proprietary data, financial information, and more.
Even cybersecurity experts are not immune: In June 2023, the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky reported that malware was installed on several dozen employees’ iPhones, causing them to perform erratically.
Unfortunately, the signs of unauthorized remote access may be subtle enough that many end users don’t notice them or may not be aware of their significance. This means malicious users could have access to your phone for weeks or months before you notice, providing hackers with plentiful opportunities to gather information and wreak havoc.
Knowing how to tell if someone is accessing your iPhone remotely early on is critical to prevent criminals from gathering sensitive information and gaining access to your organization’s networks and systems. Read on to learn more about these risks and what to do if your data is compromised.
Why might your iPhone get accessed remotely?
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of reasons why malicious actors might want to access an iPhone remotely, including:
- Data theft, such as financial information like credit card details or banking credentials.
- Intellectual property theft. Competitors or foreign entities might attempt to gain remote access to a business’s iPhones to find trade secrets, research data, or proprietary information.
- Credential harvesting. Criminals may use spyware to collect usernames and passwords stored on the iPhone for company apps and networks.
- Hacktivism. Activists may attempt to disrupt operations at organizations they perceive as opposing certain political or ideological beliefs.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to fall prey to common iPhone security mistakes that can leave data vulnerable, especially for company devices. These can stem from everything from insufficient employee training on security procedures to gaps in security policies for mobile devices. Some of the most typical errors include:
- Weak or easily guessable passwords
- Insufficient access controls
- Not implementing multi-factor authentication
- Failing to update the iOS immediately when a new version is released
- No security policy for employees’ personal devices when used for work
- A lack of endpoint protection software
- Insecure connections between devices and the company network
- Inadequate training for employees on iPhone security best practices
Remote access of phones in a business setting is often legitimate, such as when an IT team provides remote support or troubleshooting to a company iPhone, instigates software updates or patches, or enables tracking in case the device is lost. Between these benefits and many companies implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies, there are many benefits, but also added risks. In these cases, it’s essential to use an intuitive solution that supports speedy access, accurate monitoring, and comprehensive management.
Signs of iPhone remote access
It’s important to understand how to tell if someone is accessing your phone remotely. These are some signs that warrant further investigation.
- Unexpected password changes: This can be a sign that someone has accessed a phone and infiltrated the user’s accounts. If you notice your password has been changed or that you are locked out of any accounts, report to a support team to verify user credentials and account status. You should also check if the denial is limited to certain apps, which may be experiencing a service disruption or need updates or patching. Finally, examine logs and error messages that business-related apps are generating, which may help you identify the source of the problem.
- Strange notifications: Hacked iPhones may receive emails and messages from unknown senders as well as unusual notifications, a result of the hacker taking control of the phone. Check for signed-in devices on your Apple account to see if there are any unrecognized devices that might be controlling the phone.
- The iPhone runs extremely slowly or frequently reboots. Unauthorized apps and settings can slow down a phone’s normal functioning, while spyware can cause it to crash. Check the phone for any recent app installation or updates. You should also look for any changes to authentication methods or the security settings.
- The iPhone is using an unusual amount of data, the battery runs down extremely quickly, or it overheats frequently. Do you find that you’ve been using your phone more often or for new activities? If not, see if any unauthorized apps are running on the phone. Approved apps may also cause the issue with continuous data syncing or refreshing. Review network activity to check for unusually large data transfers or exfiltration that may indicate unauthorized access. If nothing turns up, you may need to run a security scan on the device to pinpoint the issue.
- There are signs of activity while the iPhone is in standby mode. Again, check for new apps or updates that may be running in the background. Review the push notification settings for apps, which may enable activity even when a phone is in standby. Check the remote access permissions granted to specific applications and services to make sure there aren’t any unusual changes. Otherwise, follow through with a security scan to check for malware or rogue apps.
How to protect your iPhone from unauthorized remote access
An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure—and that’s definitely true when it comes to securing iPhones from unauthorized remote access. Failing to do so could put not just your personal information at risk, but a company’s entire network. Following these best practices can protect your devices from malicious infiltration.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi with company phones, or make sure to use a VPN when doing so.
- Keep iOS and company apps up to date at all times. Updates are critical to prevent security vulnerabilities. Many organizations automate updates for employee iPhones to ensure compliance.
- Establish strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, biometric authentication and complex passwords.
- Restrict app permissions to minimum levels for required functionality.
If you are in charge of securing a fleet of company phones for an organization, there are some additional steps you can take:
- Consider endpoint security software that can detect and address security threats on mobile devices, including iPhones.
- Conduct regular security training and awareness to educate employees on the most recent tactics for gaining remote access to their phones and best practices for iPhone security.
- Carry out consistent security audits on iPhones to review security settings, configurations, permissions, and more.
- Abide by a least privilege access framework, providing users with the minimum set of privileges necessary to perform their tasks.
- Implement allowlisting for applications on iPhones so if you are on a company device, you can only approve allowed apps. You might also blocklist apps you know to be malicious or suspicious.
By combining these best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized remote access to your iPhone and protect yourself from infiltration or attack.
Solutions for remote device support
Knowing how to tell if your iPhone is being accessed remotely is one element of remote device support. You don’t want to prevent remote access on your company iPhone, as it offers a lot of benefits that can support productivity and job satisfaction.
These include improved flexibility and work-life balance, the ability to collaborate with coworkers remotely, and remote troubleshooting when there is a problem with the device. Remote access is crucial in an increasingly global and work-from-anywhere work landscape—and with the right protocols, it can be secure.
Ultimately, having the right technology implemented can help protect your iPhone from unauthorized remote access. ConnectWise ScreenConnect is a customizable solution that offers world-class security for IT support teams and organizations out of the box, including encryption and two-factor authentication.