What to do if your iPhone gets locked or disabled by a hacker
You look at your iPhone one day, only to discover that there’s a strange passcode preventing you from unlocking it. When you do try to unlock it all you get is a message telling you to send money, providing a sketchy-looking email address as a contact. Unfortunately, you’ve been hacked.
Usually, this is done by someone getting into your iCloud account and activating the “Find My iPhone” feature that remotely locks your phone. If you’ve actually lost the phone, this can be invaluable, but in the hands of a hacker, it can mean that you’re locked out unless you cough up a ransom. And it’s a growing practice, with millions a year spent on ransoms by victims trying to regain access to their all-important devices.
If you fall victim to this don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to do to get everything back to normal:
Don’t send anyone money
Besides the fact that you shouldn’t reward them for breaking into your phone, you have no idea whether they will actually unlock it once they have the money. They could extort you for more, or simply disappear, leaving you in the same place you were but with less money than when you started.
Change your Apple ID password
This should prevent them from getting back into your account. The hacker may already have changed it, so you’ll probably have to go through the “forgot password” process. Make sure that any email account you use is secure, and preferably change the password on all your accounts, especially if you’re using the same one for multiple services.
The easiest way to do this is to go to an Apple store, but if there isn’t one near you, use someone else’s phone to call Apple support. Explain the situation and try to find anything that can identify you as the true owner of the phone (original receipt, phone bill, etc.).
They may be able to help you get into your phone, but chances are you will have to…
Erase and restore your iPhone
Hopefully, you have a backup saved. There is very little chance that you will be able to recover your data, but iCloud does an automatic backup every time your phone is plugged in and on Wifi, so you might get lucky even if you’re not in the habit of backing your phone up regularly.
Backing up your phone is a habit you should get into, especially if you have important photos or other vital data. You’ll have to either be connected to a computer with iTunes or have a Wifi connection, and this will take a while, but your phone will end up just the same as whenever it was last backed up.
Once you restore your iPhone and you’re back up and running, here are a few more steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again:
Set up two-step verification on your Apple ID account
This will help make it much harder for hackers to get into your phone again and give you peace of mind.
Set up Touch or Face ID on your phone
This is much more secure than a passcode, although still not 100% impervious to attacks.
Frequently change your passwords
Get into the habit of regularly changing your passwords and backing up your phone. These two things can help protect you from hackers in the first place, and minimise the damage done if they do manage to get in.
Getting hacked can be stressful, but if you follow these steps you’ll be back to texting and tweeting in no time!