January 29, 2023

We’ve all been instructed to be wary of potential malware contaminating our devices. Infections often find their way into our computers, phones and tablets after clicking on dangerous links, downloading attachments from unknown emails, or even downloading malicious apps from the Google Play Store.

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Typically, these attacks target your device, but is it also possible for hackers to get into your phone’s SIM card?

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Smartphone photo with SIM card removed.
(Fox News)

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, as evidenced by this sad story shared with us by reader Carol B.:

“My brother had a hacker get a SIMS card from his cell service. He then hacked into all his email accounts and changed the passwords. He went on to kill my brother’s and his wife’s SIMS on their phones card so they don’t “get a notification from their credit card company, bank, etc. Hackers were able to break into one of his bank accounts and use Zelle to transfer $1,000 into an account. What can we do to prevent something like this from happening again? “

Why would hackers hack into your SIM card?

In short, your SIM card contains all the information that allows you to connect to the larger network via calls, text messages and emails.

It stores your mobile subscriber number, which helps to authenticate and identify you on your mobile device. So if someone successfully hacks into your SIM card, they will have the power to:

  • Access two-factor identification codes, potentially allowing them to access your bank accounts and other high-profile accounts
  • Receive text messages from your contacts
  • Use your identity to text and call others to carry out a fraudulent scheme.

Most hackers want access to your SIM card to commit any of the following three types of fraud:

1. Change the card

Once access to your SIM card, the hacker will use your information to try to trick your service provider into switching your phone number to a new SIM card and phone number, resulting in the owner’s number and information being deleted. For this, the original phone needs to be restarted to complete the transfer. This usually requires the hacker to contact the original phone owner, pose as the service provider, and reboot their phone.

2. SIM card clone

In this case, after gaining access to your SIM card, the hacker will clone all the information on the card, copying the stolen data to a new SIM card under their control. Once they are successful on this scam, the criminals gain access to all texts, calls, and location data of the original owner, which can be viewed by hackers on their devices.

3. Simjacker spyware attack

Simjacker is spyware, usually sent to people via SMS messages, which, if opened, allows hackers to read your messages, tap your phone calls, and track your location. This is primarily accomplished through software called the S@T Browser, a basic web browser primarily used by service providers to interact with web applications.While S@T Browser is installed on many devices that make people vulnerable to Simjacker attacks, it is also rarely used, and these attacks are most common in the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe

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How likely is my SIM card to be hacked?

While we’ve now established that your SIM card can be hacked, and that it’s dangerous if it does, it’s far less common than hackers gaining access to your device. This is mainly because it is less easy for criminal hackers to access your SIM card and go unnoticed. For that matter, hackers can hijack your SIM card to do a lot of things they can, such as use your identity to make calls and send text messages.

It’s also worth noting that as early as the end of 2022, Apple will no longer use physical SIM cards in any of its new products. Instead, they are deploying electronic SIM cards called eSIMs. Thankfully, when it comes to SIM swapping threats, eSIM cards are less vulnerable to hacking. Scammers and scammers can no longer claim their SIM card is lost. However, as with all technologies, the possibility of hacking an eSIM remains. With this in mind, it’s important to watch for any signs that your SIM card may have been hacked.

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A woman has been pictured possibly trying to access her phone after her SIM card was hacked.

A woman has been pictured possibly trying to access her phone after her SIM card was hacked.
(Fox News)

How do I know if my SIM card has been stolen?

As mentioned above, you can take some comfort in how easy it is to determine if your SIM card has been hacked.

You did not answer the call or text

A phone number can only be associated with one SIM card, so if you are a victim of SIM card cloning or swapping, you will not receive any new calls or texts. Ask a friend to call or text you, if the call or text connects, there is no way your SIM card has been successfully cloned or swapped.

Make calls or send text messages to unknown numbers

When you check your phone bill and see calls or texts from several numbers that you don’t recognize, it’s likely that your SIM card has been hacked. Contact your service provider today for more information on these calls.

A message telling you to restart your device

If you get a random text message from what appears to be your service provider telling you to restart your device, it’s most likely a scammer. They won’t be able to finish cloning or swapping your SIM unless you reboot the device. Your service provider will never contact you to instruct you to restart your device, so if you do receive such a message, it’s best to call them right away.

Your device appears in an unfamiliar location

One of the surest ways to determine if your SIM card has been compromised is if your phone is in a different location than yours while using a tracking app like Find My. However, many hackers will try to disable this service as a means of avoiding detection.

Can’t access account

Many apps and websites, especially banking or other apps and websites that contain vulnerable information, tend to use two-factor authentication. This is a way to thwart hackers who might have accessed your login information by sending you a text or email with a verification code. If your SIM card is hacked, they will be able to receive this code, allowing them to log in and change your username and password.

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Photo of the SIM card in its case, on the outside of the phone.

Photo of the SIM card in its case, on the outside of the phone.
(Fox News)

How can I protect my SIM card from being hacked?

The chances of your SIM being hijacked are relatively low. Still, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you.

  • Make all your social media accounts “private” or “friends only”– Hackers often take the first step in accessing your information by searching your public online status
  • Delete any applications or online accounts you no longer use – Further limit your chances of being hacked
  • Do not open attachments or click on links from unknown sources e-mail – They are most likely a phishing scam looking to gain access to your personal information
  • Consider Alternatives to Two-Factor Identification – Instead of relying on text messages or emails, consider a service like the Google Authenticator app, which is tied to your device and prevents hackers from getting text messages or emails
  • Never use the same password for multiple accounts
  • Do not select security questions with public answers, such as “mother’s maiden name.”

How to tell if someone is spying on your Android

SIM card lock

The biggest security precaution you can take on your SIM card is to enable SIM card lock, anyone trying to access your SIM card will need to enter a PIN code.

Enable SIM lock on Android devices

  • go set up
  • tap Lock Screen and Security
  • tap other security settings
  • tap Set up Sim card lock
  • Open Lock the SIM card.

Enable SIM lock on iPhone

  • go set up
  • tap cell phone
  • tap SIM password
  • Enter your existing passwordSIM lock will be activated.

Important Note: Always make sure you know your current PIN before activating the lock.

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Lock down your technology

My greatest wish is to educate and inform you of the increasing real threats to each of our connected devices, and to encourage you to use strong antivirus security for everything in your life that is connected to the rest of the world.

Click the magnifying glass icon at the top of my site, search CyberGuy.com for “best antivirus” to see my expert reviews of the best antivirus protection for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices.

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Kurt's home screen "internet person" Knutson's website.

The home screen of Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson’s website.
(Fox News)

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