Cybercriminals Can Unlock Your Smartphone From Anywhere, Claims New Report

Researchers from NordVPN warn smartphone users of a new remote hacking method.

  • Cybercriminals have found a new way to hack the smartphones of unsuspecting users.
  • The new method is called screen hacking, and it allows hackers to unlock certain smartphones from a distance.
  • This method doesn’t need any malware to operate but uses electromagnetic signals.


Cybercrime is a serious issue and continues to pose a severe threat to individuals and entities alike. According to a report, 97 cybercrime victims per hour, or a hack attack every 39 seconds. If that wasn’t alarming enough, cybercriminals have found a new way to hack smartphones remotely. According to the researchers at Nord VPN, hackers are now using electromagnetic interference (EMI) to hack the smartphones of unsuspecting users remotely. If this worries you, read ahead to learn what screen hacking is and how to protect yourself.

Cybercriminals Can Hack your Smartphone Using Electromagnetic Interference

Man Holding iPhone in a cafe
Image Courtesy Yura Fresh/Unsplash

The screen hacking attack through EMI has been dubbed the “first active contactless attack against capacitive touchscreens” by experts from Zhejiang University (China) and the Technical University of Darmstadt (Germany). Also called GhostTouch, the new attack type lets hackers inject false touchpoints into a touchscreen remotely. This is done by injecting EMI signals into the electrodes built into the touchscreen, registered as touch events.

After that, they don’t need to touch the display to operate it. Therefore, if you see your phone unlock and operate independently, you have been hacked. This technology lets hackers simulate touch actions like swipes and screen taps on the targeted areas on the touchscreen. This is done to unlock your smartphone and perform dangerous actions on it. This may include installing malware, keylogger, stealing data and passwords stored on the device, establishing an unsafe Wi-Fi connection, and much more.

Some of the most common places where screen hacking takes place include public places like cafes and libraries. Hackers place an elaborate set-up under the table to launch the EMI attack when unsuspecting users place their smartphone screen-down on the table. The attack is only launched when the phone is placed screen down on the table so that the victim doesn’t notice the phone operating by itself.

According to the experts at NordVPN, the attack takes advantage of the capacitive touchscreen’s sensitivity to EMI and works from up to 40 meters. You can tell if your smartphone has been hacked if it unlocks by itself, starts operating on its own, answers or make calls on your behalf, has unusual connections (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi), and so on.

Needless to say, screen hacking can land you in a world of hurt if you are not prepared for it. To prevent it from happening, be mindful of your smartphone in public places and always keep it in your pocket. Never put your phone face down on a table. Ensure biometrics authentication is turned on for financial transactions and other essential actions. Lastly, keep your smartphone updated with the latest operating system and security patch.