Do you think someone is spying on your phone? With the advances in spy software technology, that paranoid thought is not as far-fetched as it once seemed. There’s a huge industry dedicated to using software to snoop on people. In fact, this type of software can be so advanced it’s hard to detect.
The good news is there are a few clues that you can look out for. Here’s how you’ll know if your phone is tapped.
8 signs your phone may be tapped
With advances in technology, there’s been a significant uptick in spyware infestations on smartphones. Jonny Pelter, director of The Cyber Unit, said mobile spyware is designed to do more than listen in on a few phone calls.
“This kind of software is designed to secretly turn on the phone’s microphone and camera, access emails and messages, and even harvest location data,” he said.
Since spyware is designed to be stealthy, it can be hard to identify. However, there are some telltale signs to watch out for:
Unusual background noise: Strange noises on a phone call may be normal from time to time. However, beeping, clicking and high-pitched humming could indicate your phone is being tapped. If the sounds happen more than once, then you should be suspicious. Pelter also adds that you can use a sound-bandwidth sensor on a low frequency to check for inaudible sounds, which can indicate unusual activity.
Reduced battery life: Older phones might not hold their charge as long, so this isn’t necessarily an indicator that your phone is tapped. But if you have a relatively new phone, or you find your battery getting really hot for no apparent reason, there could be unknown software lurking in the background.
Trouble turning off: When you shut off your phone, it needs to complete any tasks that are still processing. If it takes longer than usual to turn off, some sort of software may be sending information elsewhere.
Data use spike: If you can’t find a legitimate reason why you’re receiving a higher phone bill than usual or your data usage has gone up exponentially, then someone is most likely intercepting your phone. Malicious software could be using your data to send your personal information elsewhere. Some even use your telephone number to make expensive overseas calls.
Unwanted ads and apps: Do you see a huge number of pop-up ads appearing when you’re browsing the internet? Or when you turn on your phone, do you find a bunch of apps you don’t remember installing? Then you need to be suspicious.
Unusual emails and texts: Maybe you’ve gotten messages from friends and family asking why you’re sending random emails and texts. If you don’t recall sending anything (especially ones that involve random links), that could be a sign that spyware or other malware may have taken over your phone.
Slow performance: Some spyware uses up your phone’s system resources and disk space, which can make your device slower.
Files or folders moving around or missing: Spyware can allow culprits to mess around with your phone’s system and personal files, Pelters said. If you notice files disappearing or new files you don’t remember downloading, it’s a red flag.
How to remove spyware on an iPhone
In most cases, someone will need to jailbreak your phone in order to install spyware. That’s not to say it’s impossible—thieves might still be able to access your phone with a certain network to download your personal data.
Unfortunately, if there is suspicious software on your iPhone, then it might be more difficult to find it since accessing the directory can be challenging. In most cases, updating your software will solve it, or at least prevent your phone from being hijacked if it hasn’t been jailbroken. Otherwise, back up your important data and try to reset the phone to its factory settings.
How to remove spyware on Android phones
Here are a few ways to try and remove spyware on an Android phone:
- Look through your files. Different phones will differ in terms of where to find suspicious-looking files, but you can generally find them by heading to the settings and choosing a section called “Applications” or “Running services.” Spyware tries to disguise file names, so you’ll want to look carefully. In some cases, there’ll be variations of the words “stealth” or “monitor.”
- Don’t delete files. Unless you’re absolutely sure, don’t delete anything or else you risk doing permanent damage to your phone. It’s probably best to take it to a professional.
- Download an antivirus software. Install a reputable app and scan your phone regularly. It should spot spyware and uninstall it for you.
- Perform a factory reset. If all else fails, you can try to reset your phone to its factory settings (make sure to first back up important files) to see if you can get rid of malicious software that way.
How can I protect my phone and online privacy?
Protecting your online privacy and phone will help prevent spyware.
Here are some best practices:
- Make sure apps you install are legitimate. The sad news is that there are still fake versions of apps, so check to make sure you’re downloading something that’s from a verified source.
- Install antivirus software. Again, before downloading an antivirus app, make sure it’s from a legitimate source. Be extra careful with free antivirus software.
- Be wary of strange phone calls and emails. If you get an email or text from an unknown source, be wary about clicking any links. Reverse phone and email search services can be a potential way to learn more about suspicious communications.
- Change phone settings. Have it set so that your phone automatically updates to the latest software.
- Set a data warning on your phone. Your phone will alert you if you’re about to reach your data limit, which can help you monitor whether there’s unusual activity.