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Is Your Phone Hacked? How To Find Out & Protect Yourself

Unless you’re dealing with an extremely sophisticated piece of malware, there are often obvious clues that your smartphone is under attack, or already compromised by hackers or viruses.

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is your phone hacked how to find out and protect yourself

Is your phone hacked? These days, most people are pretty switched on when it comes to the dangers of computer viruses and hacked PCs. We’ve all become pretty paranoid about clicking weird email links and downloading random files from dubious websites. Yet, for all of the effort we put into keeping our PCs safe from malware and hackers, our smartphones often get neglected when it comes to cybersecurity.

Sure, the average iPhone or Android device is leagues ahead of an outdated version of Windows when it comes to security, but if you think that your phone is impervious to infiltration by criminals and scammers, think again.

In this guide, we’ll explain how your phone can be targeted by cybercriminals, show you some of the telltale signs that your device has been compromised, and finally, give you some vital tips to rescue your phone and data from the clutches of the hackers.

How To Tell If Your Phone Has Been Hacked

Unless you’re dealing with an extremely sophisticated piece of malware, there are often obvious clues that your smartphone is under attack, or already compromised by hackers or viruses. Here are some of the most prevalent side effects of a hacked smartphone:

The Battery Drains Extremely Quickly

All phone batteries degrade over time, resulting in a device that won’t hold a charge for as long as it used to. However, in the case of a hacked smartphone, the power can sometimes drain extremely rapidly for no apparent reason.

“Phone spyware stays active all the time, so it quickly saps power and drains the battery, so this could be a sign that your cell phone has been compromised” – Tim Lynch, PhD, Psychsoftpc.com.

Your Data Use Has Skyrocketed

A really obvious sign that your phone has been hacked or contains a malware app is a huge spike in data usage: Typically, a hacked phone will upload large chunks of information, which will show up in your data usage when away from your home WiFi network. Downloading an app like “Data Usage” can help you to monitor for any irregular activity outside of your normal online activities.

The Phone Is Really Hot

Going hand-in-hand with a quickly draining battery and large spikes in data use, a super hot phone can be a sign that you’re device is compromised. If you regularly find that your phone’s exterior case is hot to the touch, even when idle, you may have a hacked handset.

Overall Performance Is Sluggish

If you regularly experience crashes, slow performance or a delay when making calls or sending texts even after a restart, there’s a chance that your phone has been hijacked.

The Phone Has Dialed/Texted Numbers Without Your Input

Here’s a scary scenario: You’re informed by some of your contacts that you’ve bombarded them with weird text messages or automated phone calls, but you have no knowledge of anything untoward ever happening. If you ever experience this kind of behavior from your phone, it’s a sure bet that you’ve been hacked.

You’re Experiencing Lots Of Pop-Ups & Random App Installs

Remember those PC viruses that slowly strangled your machine with pop-ups and installed weird spam applications that you didn’t authorize? Well this kind of hack is starting gain traction in the smartphone world now too.

Your Gmail Or iCloud Accounts Are Acting Strangely

Services like iCloud and Gmail are rich targets for hackers, as they contain a lot of sensitive information that could be exploited for theft or extortion. Typical signs that your main accounts have been hacked include password reset notifications that you didn’t make, as well as security checks and verification emails telling you that you’ve added a new device.

So How Did Your Smartphone Get Hacked?

Now that you can spot a few of the signs that indicate your phone is compromised, you’re probably wondering how a phone hack could happen in the first place? Surely modern smartphones aren’t that easy to sabotage?

The reality is that hacking a modern phone is virtually impossible without an error of judgement from the device’s owner. Here are some common mistakes that could leave you vulnerable to foul play:

Downloading Malware App

As a general rule, it’s much easier to inadvertently download a dubious app on the Google Play Store than on Apple’s App Store, as the former is less likely to vet their apps quite as vigorously. Android devices also tend to be owned by people who prefer to customize their phone’s operating system, and this can lead to downloads from places outside of the official marketplace.

Opening A Dubious Link

From fake bank or credit card emails to files sent to you from a friend’s already compromised device or app, clicking the links contained inside of “Phishing” emails is a surefire way to get yourself into trouble.

Using Compromised Passwords

Reusing passwords is a huge error, and one of the most simple ways for hackers to gain access to your Google or iCloud accounts. Once a thief gains access to your main accounts, it’s extremely difficult to keep in control of the situation, leading to devastating results.

Charging Your Device At A Public USB Point

If you’re low on power when out and about in public, try to resist the urge to charge your device using a public USB socket. Hackers have been known to hide devices in these chargers, allowing them to control your device with the intention of adding secret apps and malware via the USB input, including key loggers that can monitor everything you type into your apps.

If you do need to top up your phone in public, always use your own USB charger to ensure you’re not connected to anything malicious.

Using Free WiFi

Free WiFi is super convenient and avoids draining your phone’s data plan. However, unless you use a VPN (virtual private network) to connect to the free WiFi in coffee shops and airports, there’s a chance that your data could be intercepted as it bounces back and forth between your device and the wireless base station.

What To Do If Your Phone Gets Hacked

If you have a suspicion that your smartphone has been hacked, try not to panic. Phone hacks can be serious, but if you act immediately to limit the damage, you should be able to recover from the attack:

Change All Of Your Passwords Immediately

Even if your device hasn’t been hacked, changing your passwords now and then can help to give you peace of mind that your data is safe. Make sure all of your passwords are unique, and make them hard to crack. If the option is available, always use two factor authentication, especially on mission-critical services like your Google account or iCloud.

If you’re having trouble remembering your passwords, use a decent password manager like Myki, 1PasswordBitwarden or LastPass.

Monitor Your Financial Accounts

Once you have your major passwords secure, go through all of your financial services, such as bank accounts and credit cards, checking for any out of the ordinary purchases or charges. If you see anything suspicious, immediately contact your bank or card provider, and they will begin the process of reimbursing you for your losses and investigating the fraud.

Use Google Play Protect

Apple users won’t typically need to worry about compromised apps, but for Android users suspicious of a data breach via a downloaded app, it’s good practice to use Google Play Protect to scan for (and remove) malware on your phone.

To check your device, go to the Google Play Store app, click the three-line icon in the top-left left corner of your screen. Next, tap Google Play Protect, then hit the scan button.

Factory Reset Your Phone

If your phone does have malware or a virus, it’s usually best practice to bite the bullet and wipe the device clean with a factory reset. Doing this will erase all the data on the phone, so it’s vital that you have everything backed up somewhere in the cloud so that you can quickly get back up and running with minimal losses.

Learn How To Protect Yourself From Hackers & Malware

Many smartphone users still aren’t sufficiently clued up to spot a phishing scam or dubious app before it’s too late. With data theft and hacking continually on the rise, it’s imperative that you wise up, toughen your privacy settings and passwords, and learn as much as you can about data theft and online security.

Do some research, stay safe, and never get your phone hacked again with these simple tips!

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Security

10 Best VPN Services For The Middle East In 2023 (Free & Paid)

The VPN services recommended in this article can solve many of the issues experienced by those who are living or visiting the Middle East, including internet censorship, geo-restrictions, and online privacy concerns.

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10 best vpn services for the middle east (free and paid)

Internet censorship in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Syria, Turkey, and other Middle Eastern countries is so widespread that there’s an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to it.

Fortunately for those who are living or visiting the Middle East, there are many VPN services that make it possible to enjoy unrestricted access to the internet even in countries where certain online content is blocked.

To help you select the best VPN service for the Middle East in 2023 and beyond, we’ve tested many popular VPN services and narrowed them down to the top 10 best options.

What Is A VPN And How Does It Work?

The acronym VPN stands for “virtual private network,” a special private network that extends across the public internet, creating an encrypted tunnel for your data to go through. Nobody outside this tunnel, including your internet service provider (ISP) and government monitoring agencies, can’t see what you’re doing online.

The easiest way to establish a VPN connection is to use an online VPN service, such as those recommended in this article. VPN services have servers in many countries around the world (the Middle East region is no exception), and they provide client applications that enable users to connect to them with a simple click.

Why Use A VPN In The Middle East?

We’ve already touched upon what’s arguably the main reason to use a VPN service in the Middle East: internet censorship.

Indeed, some online content is not accessible in many Middle Eastern countries. Examples of commonly blocked content include gambling websites, pornographic sites, news sites, social media platforms, or anti-Islam, anti-government, and anti-censorship sites.

Besides internet censorship, people living in the Middle East also frequently use VPN services to do things like:

  • Enhance Their Privacy: A reliable VPN makes it impossible for third parties to monitor your online activity and see which websites you’ve visited and which files you’ve downloaded. This is true even when you’re connected using a public Wi-Fi network that’s not encrypted.
  • Access Geo-Restricted Content: Many streaming services and even news websites geo-restrict some or all of their content to make it available only to users who are located in certain countries. With a VPN, you can circumvent such restrictions by making it seem as if you’re located in a different country.
  • Work Remotely: Remote work is becoming increasingly prevalent, but so are the threats all remote workers face, such as man-in-the-middle attacks. A VPN is a must-have cybersecurity solution for all remote workers who don’t always enjoy the peace of mind provided by a trusted enterprise network.
  • Play Online Games: Would you like to play an online game that’s not available to players who are located in the Middle East? That’s not a problem if you have one of the best VPN services for gaming.
  • Hide Their Real Location: Your real IP address can be easily used to reveal your location. If that’s something you’re not comfortable with, then you should use a VPN service to hide it.

As you can see, the reasons to use a VPN service in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates are numerous, but determining which VPN service is the best can be a challenge.

How To Choose The Best VPN For The Middle East?

Selecting the best VPN for use in the Middle East is somewhat complicated by the fact that some countries, like Iran, regulate VPN usage and don’t allow all VPN services—only government-approved ones. That’s why this article doesn’t recommend just one VPN service but ten.

Once you have found a couple of VPN services that work in your country, you should consider the following criteria to determine which of them can meet your needs the best:

  • Servers: Ideally, you want to choose a VPN service that has servers all over the globe because then you can circumvent any geo-restrictions. Since many online services in the Middle East work only with a local IP address, your VPN service should have at least one server in the country where you live.
  • Performance: You don’t want your VPN service to make it impossible for you to enjoy any slightly more bandwidth-intensive content because of its poor performance. The good news is that all leading providers make performance one of their top priorities.
  • Security: The best VPN services don’t log any user data, implement state-of-the-art encryption, and use automatic kill switch functionally with DNS leak protection to ensure that no private data gets leaked.
  • Location: The location of a VPN service provider matters a lot because it determines its legal obligations. What’s more, the so-called Fourteen Eyes countries (the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Spain) have intelligence-sharing agreements that may be used to obtain information about VPN users.
  • Price: It goes without saying that the price of a VPN service is one of the most important selection criteria. We recommend you set a clear budget a stick to it. It’s also a good idea to look for special discounts, especially around major shopping holidays.

With these criteria in mind, we’ve researched the best VPN Middle East services to help you make the right choice. Let’s take a look at them!

Best VPN Services For The Middle East

Each of the top 10 best VPN services described below can be recommended to Middle Easterners who want to circumvent government censorship, enhance their privacy, access geo-restricted content, work remotely, play online games, or hide their real location.

Note: The prices below are those in effect at the time of writing this article, and they may include temporary discounts.

NordVPN

nordvpn

💵 Pricing: $5.29 a month (with a two-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN services in the world, and not just because of how heavily it is advertised on sites like YouTube. The service actually does deliver on its promise of state-of-the-art security and privacy that don’t require you to sacrifice your download and upload speed.

The users of NordVPN can choose from more than 5,000 fast servers in dozens of countries around the world, including the United Arab Emirates. Unfortunately, access to such a large network of VPN servers doesn’t come cheap, but at least you get a lot of free extras, including malware protection, a password manager, and 1 TB of encrypted cloud storage, among other things.

Pros: Cons:
– Fantastic performance – More expensive than alternatives
– Intuitive apps for all major platforms  
– A huge number of servers  
– Great customer service  
– Diskless server infrastructure  
– 1 TB of free encrypted cloud storage  

ExpressVPN

expressvpn

💵 Pricing: $8.32 a month (with a one-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

ExpressVPN is the most expensive VPN service recommended in this article (unless you’ll get lucky and stumble upon a nice discount), so it must be really good, right? Correct! ExpressVPN has servers in Egypt and Israel (and over 90 other countries), and it’s known for its excellent P2P and streaming support.

Setting up ExpressVPN on a smartphone, tablet, computer, or router is painless thanks to the large library of official client apps and browser extensions. Just know that the service (and many others like it) is owned by Kape Technologies, a digital security software provider that has done some shady things in the past.

Pros: Cons:
– Great P2P and streaming support – More expensive than alternatives
– Helpful customer support – Owned by Kape Technologies
– Speedy refund process  
– Independently audited  

CyberGhost

cyberghost vpn

💵 Pricing: $2.19 a month (with a two-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 45 days

CyberGhost stands out with its industry-leading 45-day money-back guarantee, giving you plenty of time to evaluate its performance and usability. The service provides native client apps for all major platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. Routers, smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, and game consoles are also supported.

At the time of writing this article, CyberGhost operates nearly 10,000 servers in 91 countries, including Egypt, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In September 2022, the service finally completed an independent audit, and it can certainly be proud of the results.

Pros: Cons:
– Industry-leading money-back guarantee – Owned by Kape Technologies
– Inexpensive  
– Constantly growing server network  
– A huge number of servers  

Private Internet Access

private internet access vpn

💵 Pricing: $2.03 a month (with a three-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

Private Internet Access is another popular VPN owned by Kape Technologies, and it has WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2/IPSec servers in Egypt and more than 80 other countries, including all 50 US states.

The service provides dedicated IP addresses to those who would like to enjoy a smoother online experience with fewer interruptions. With a dedicated IP address, you won’t be constantly running into CAPTCHAs and bot checks.

Pros: Cons:
– Inexpensive – Average speeds
– Audited by a third-party – Owned by Kape Technologies
– Supports ten simultaneous connections  
– Provides dedicated IP addresses  

VyprVPN

vyprvpn

💵 Pricing: $5.00 a month (with a one-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

With servers in Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, VyprVPN is an excellent choice for Middle Easterners who want to improve their online security and privacy while retaining a local IP address.

The service does a great job of circumventing various VPN-blocking techniques, and it uses the WireGuard protocol for hassle-free streaming. These and other perks justify its somewhat higher price.

Pros: Cons:
– Can circumvent VPN blocking – More expensive than alternatives
– Great P2P and streaming support – Not many servers
– Owns its entire server infrastructure  
– Many servers in the Middle East  

Surfshark

surfshark vpn

💵 Pricing: $2.30 a month (with a two-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

If you can excuse the fact that Surfshark is located in the Netherlands, which is part of the Fourteen Eyes intelligence-sharing group, then this VPN service should definitely be high on your list because it offers a lot of value for a great price.

All Surfshark plans can support an unlimited number of connections, which means that you could theoretically secure each and every device you own for just $2.30 a month—and that’s certainly a great deal. The service also boasts 3,200+ servers in 100 countries, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Pros: Cons:
– Inexpensive – Located in the Netherlands
– Unlimited simultaneous connections  
– Servers in multiple Middle Eastern countries  

PureVPN

purevpn

💵 Pricing: $1.99 a month (with a two-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 31 days

With prices that start at just $1.99 a month, you would be hard-pressed to find a cheaper VPN service that’s as reputable as PureVPN. Despite its low price, the service operates a massive network of more than 6,500 servers, including servers in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Up to 10 people can use PureVPN to secure an unlimited number of devices with AES 256-bit encryption at the same time. Some advanced features, like split tunneling, are included in the price, while others, such as port forwarding and dedicated IP addresses, are available as paid add-ons.

Pros: Cons:
– Supports ten simultaneous connections – Occasional client issues
– Verified no data logging policy  
– Inexpensive  

PrivateVPN

privatevpn

💵 Pricing: $2.00 a month (with a three-year commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

It’s common for the best VPN services in the Middle East to use 256-bit encryption algorithms, but PrivateVPN takes security to the next level with its military-grade 2048-bit encryption. While the extra bits don’t make much difference in the real-world, they show just how committed PrivateVPN is to protecting its users.

What’s also unique about this VPN service is the fact that it doesn’t outsource customer support at all. Instead, all customers get to talk directly with its in-house developers to get their problems solved quickly and easily. PrivateVPN has a few servers in Israel, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, but its server network is on the smaller side.

Pros: Cons:
– Inexpensive – Not many servers
– Unblocks streaming services  
– Military-grade 2048-bit encryption  
– In-house customer support  

ProtonVPN

protonvpn

💵 Pricing: $4.99 a month (with a two-year commitment); free plan available
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

If the name of this VPN service sounds familiar, then there’s a good chance that you’ve used ProtonMail, a secure email service that uses end-to-end encryption. As you’ve probably guessed, ProtonVPN and ProtonMail share the same developer, Proton AG. They also share the same focus on security, privacy, and freedom.

ProtonVPN offers a free VPN service that people who are living or visiting the Middle East can use to 100+ servers in 3 countries (US, NL, JP). To unlock all servers and locations ProtonVPN has to offer (almost 2,000 servers in over 60 countries), including Israel and the United Arab Emirates, you need to purchase the Proton VPN Plus plan.

Pros: Cons:
– Provided by a trusted and respected company – Doesn’t offer browser extensions
– Nicely designed client  
– Free plan available  

Mullvad

mullvad vpn

💵 Pricing: €5.00 a month (no commitment)
↩️ Money-Back Guarantee: 30 days

VPN services tend to follow the same template: offering more or less the same features and the same customer experience. Mullvad is a welcome breath of fresh air that does away with pricing plans that force you to make a long commitment just to get a nice discount. Instead, there’s just one plan, and you can stop paying whenever you want.

As such, Mullvad is great if you need a VPN for just a month or two, but it’s harder to recommend to those who rely on a VPN every day. That’s especially true since it doesn’t have many servers in the Middle East (only a few in Israel and the United Arab Emirates). What’s more, the client app leaves something to be desired in terms of usability.

Pros: Cons:
– Fair pricing model – More expensive than alternatives
– Transparent and highly anonymous – Pay-as-you-go only
– Open-source – Can’t unblock streaming services

How To Set Up A VPN For Use In The Middle East?

You don’t need to be a networking expert to set up a VPN for use in the Middle East. You just need one of the recommended VPN services and a few minutes of free time.

Let’s demonstrate how it works using our personal favorite VPN service in the Middle East, NordVPN:

  1. Go to: https://nordvpn.com/risk-free-vpn/
  2. Click the Start Now button and choose one of the available plans.
  3. Create an account and pay for the selected subscription plan.
  4. Download the NordVPN client app for your device and install it.
  5. Launch the NordVPN client and log in to your account.

You can now connect to any NordVPN server. To see if your connection is protected, you can visit the NordVPN website and look at the status bar at the very top. If everything is working correctly, then you won’t see your real IP address.

Conclusion

The best VPN services recommended in this article can solve many of the issues experienced by those who are living or visiting the Middle East, including internet censorship, geo-restrictions, and online privacy concerns. Just remember to use them responsibly and in adherence with to local laws. If you’re looking for VPN options for your Android device, check out our list of the top 3 VPN services for Android.

FAQs

Are VPN services legal in the Middle East?

In countries like Bahrain, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Qatar, VPN usage is completely unregulated. Countries like Iran allow only certain government-approved VPNs, while Iraq bans VPN usage entirely.

Do all VPN services work in the Middle East?

Sadly, not all VPN services work in every Middle Eastern country. In Iran, for example, only government-approved VPNs are allowed.

Can I use a VPN to visit any website I want?

You technically can use a VPN to visit any website you want, but that doesn’t mean you should. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, you can get into some serious trouble if you use a VPN to visit banned websites.

What are the best VPN services in the Middle East?

The best VPN services in the Middle East are:
– NordVPN
– ExpressVPN
– CyberGhost
– Private Internet Access
– VyprVPN

Are there any free Middle East VPN services?

Yes, there are free VPN services in the Middle East, such as the one that comes with the Opera web browser, but such services are often not as secure, fast, and feature-complete as their paid counterparts, so we recommend you avoid them.

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