Is your phone acting funny? Do you have apps you don’t recall downloading? How about your battery life—is it draining more than normal? Maybe you’re just a concerned phone owner looking for ways to protect your device against potential malicious activity. Whatever the reason for your curiosity, you came to the right place. Learn how to stop someone from accessing your phone remotely and other important protective measures for phone security.
Signs someone may be using spy software on your phone
To understand what a hacked phone might look like, you first need to know what grayware and spyware are.
Grayware, as cybersecurity company Norton describes, is data that could be potentially harmful to your device without being malware or an out-and-out virus. Adware, for instance, is a type of grayware—think popups and other unwanted advertisements that annoy you to no end, either on your phone or computer.
Spyware is more threatening because that means someone is collecting your personal data to use for unwanted means, either to populate adware to spam you or to potentially disrupt your life by stealing your private information.
Some common signs you may have grayware or spyware on your phone:
Decreased battery life
Probably the clearest sign is a constantly draining battery. Yes, this can result from excessive charging habits or just common aging of your device, but if the draining battery is noticeable and abrupt, you may have a problem.
Another common red flag is slow phone performance. Slowness may manifest itself in apps taking forever to start or websites dragging their feet to open on your browser.
Unknown apps in the background
Another telltale sign of potential problems are apps you don’t recognize on your phone. You might find these apps when you peruse your apps list or close all the apps you thought you had open, only to see an unrecognizable app running.
Increased data usage
Keep an eye on your phone’s data usage. Did it skyrocket on days you don’t think you really used your phone that much? That is a red flag.
Common ways spyware may infect your phone
So how did this happen? Here are some common ways phones may become compromised.
- Clicking on a link from a suspicious email or text. Even if it appears at first to be from a legitimate source, clicking on links may be a gateway to unknowingly download spyware and other apps to your phone.
- Joining public WiFi networks. Cyber con artists may set up fake public networks, and while you walk through the steps to join, your phone may become infected.
- Letting others use your phone. Whether it’s a potentially jealous partner who wants to track your movements or your child who innocently downloads dodgy apps on your phone, make sure you keep control of your phone.
How to stop or block someone from spying on your phone
The first step to prevention and security with any device you own: Don’t give it to someone who might put grayware on your phone. Don’t click on suspicious links or open unusual emails or text messages from senders you don’t recognize. (A helpful tip to try and check the sender on your phone: Tap on the sender’s name in the email to open their contact card and make extra sure the sender is someone you know with a legitimate email address.)
If you suspect your phone is past the point of prevention and now into the fix-it phase, there are several actions you can take.
Remove apps you don’t recognize or use
On an iPhone, just hold down your finger on the app icon until all the apps start wobbling, then press the X in the top right corner and choose to delete the app off your phone. You can make sure the app is gone in your Settings. On an Android phone, go to your Google Play Store to manage and delete apps.
Keep your software up to date
Make sure your device is loaded with the latest software from the manufacturer, which often includes increased security protection from known potential hacking threats.
Use antivirus software
Download a trusted antivirus program, such as Bitdefender or Norton, to audit your phone and find any suspicious activities or items. They can also help with preventing unauthorized use.
Reset your phone to factory settings
This is the most drastic step, but it may be necessary. If your phone is overrun or you just simply have had enough with whatever ails your device, you can reset your phone to factory settings. This gets rid of every app you downloaded on your phone and restores the phone to the preloaded apps that came with the device when you purchased it.
Factory settings is the nuclear option. The downside to this move is losing all your creature comforts and settings you built to customize the phone to your habits and preferences. The upside, though, is clearing out everything and getting a fresh start with your phone.