Have you ever felt someone watching you but convinced yourself that it was just your overactive imagination playing tricks? Well, it might not be—cyberattacks happen multiple times a day and often in the form of camhacking, aka when someone is watching you through your phone camera. Follow this guide to learn how to know if someone is watching you, plus tips to protect your device, such as using security software like Norton 360 Deluxe.
Believe it or not, hackers can turn your mobile camera on and off, record, and sometimes even save media from your camera roll by installing spyware or remote-access Trojan malware. Pretty scary, right? The good news is that many smartphones come with enhanced security measures that prevent camhacking—but there are still workarounds that hackers can exploit.
That’s why it’s important to take preventive measures and discover how to know if someone is watching you through your phone camera.
Let's dive into it.
Check your data usage
Background applications (apps) use data to continue running tasks even when the program isn’t in use. This is often necessary for apps delivering up-to-the-minute information like news, weather, and social media. However, malicious apps are also known to run in the background.
In some cases, hackers use scareware and phishing tactics to install illegitimate apps that contain spyware on people’s phones. Then, the spyware runs in the background, allowing the hacker to continuously monitor and record the user’s activity, including everything they type. Soon, the owner may notice that their cellular data (the technology they use to connect to the internet without Wi-Fi or a hotspot) allowance runs out faster than usual.
Tip: To verify app safety, check which apps use your cellular data. If you don’t recognize an app, remove it from your device immediately. You can also look for familiar camera apps since hackers can sometimes spy on your device through third-party applications you willingly download.
Investigate your camera’s behavior
Another way to tell if someone is using your phone camera to watch you is if it begins to exhibit "strange behaviors.” This can appear in many different ways and largely depends on your device and the malware the hacker uses to access your camera.
However, there are a few common signs you can look for:
- Third-party camera apps opening on their own
- Media in your phone’s gallery you don’t remember capturing
- A slow camera and frequent app crashes
Review your camera permissions
Camera permissions allow or deny apps access to your phone’s camera.
Generally, a device owner will need to grant permission for an app to use the camera if it’s needed for functionality. For example, an app may need access to the camera to livestream video games, scan QR codes, record videos, and enable video conferencing with classmates or co-workers.
However, camera access is unnecessary for many apps. In the privacy settings, you should be able to find a list of every app on your phone with access to your camera. You can toggle the button to revoke permissions if you find legitimate apps and don’t see a reason to share access to your camera with them.
Unfamiliar apps and those you no longer need should go straight to the trash.
Tip: Be cautious about which apps you grant access to your phone’s camera. Only enable camera use if it’s necessary for the app to function properly.
Monitor your video call performance
Video calls are a great way to chat with someone while still seeing their face, even when you’re miles apart. Many modern smartphones make this a seamless experience with high-quality video.
However, video calls can deteriorate because of:
- A bad Wi-Fi connection
- Low data availability
- Poor reception
- Malfunctioning hardware
However, if you’re sure none of those reasons is a factor, low-quality video can also be a sign that someone is intercepting the call—especially if the issues seem to appear out of nowhere.
Tip: Try connecting to a secure Wi-Fi network to see if your connection stabilizes, or give “Pixel peeping” a go. To do this, record a video (ideally, in bright, natural light) and play it back. If you notice glitches or pixelation, it’s more likely that spyware is hiding somewhere on your phone.
Listen for strange sounds in calls
If odd sounds emanate from your phone, you may unknowingly be participating in a three-way call. These sounds can indicate that someone is listening to or recording your video call.
Some people report hearing the sound of a camera shutter, static, clicking, and echoes. This happens when the hacker accesses the phone’s microphone.
Tip: If this happens, disconnect from the Wi-Fi and force close all open apps. This should stop the hacker. However, if they are using advanced software, they may be able to begin again, so run a malware scan to ensure you’re in the clear.
Review your location permissions
Much like camera permissions, location permissions allow apps to monitor a phone’s movement. Hackers can use this to find people’s homes, businesses, and more—opening the owner up to threats such as home invasions and theft.
Tip: Review location services under the privacy settings in your phone to see which apps have access. Remove access to any apps that don’t need it and adjust your location settings to share only while using these specific apps wherever possible. And again, delete any apps you don’t need or recognize.
Monitor your camera light indicator
Most phones come with an LED indicator that alerts the user when their camera is in use. If someone is watching you through your phone camera, the light may remain on even after you exit apps that use your camera, or the light may turn on unexpectedly.
However, this can also be the cause of faulty firmware (microcode that tells device hardware what to do) or an app you forgot to quit.
Still, the indicator light is one of the most common signs that your phone was hacked, so it’s worth looking into. To do this, scan your device with antivirus software or take the phone in to be assessed by a professional.
Tip: If you’re worried about someone targeting your device, cover the camera with a sticker, tape, or a cam cover to protect your privacy.
Look for newly added apps, photos, or video files
Malware can hide away in photo, video, and audio files—nestled inconspicuously among the other media you capture. Often, device owners won’t even notice the new additions until they receive a “low storage space” warning or scroll through their camera roll.
Also, while the files and media on your phone can be a cover for spyware, they can also contain footage captured by the hacker—stored on your device rather than in a third-party location.
Other than waiting on a “low storage” warning, you can begin your search for malware if your device starts to slow down. This is another common sign you have a hacked phone camera, since lengthy recordings consume a lot of storage space, even when compressed.
Tip: Sometimes hackers misuse legitimate apps to spy on unsuspecting phone users—be wary of downloading any apps that require you to jailbreak your phone.
Assess your battery performance
If your battery loses power fast without explanation, malware may be running on your device. This red flag goes hand in hand with unusually high data because of how quickly spyware apps drain resources.
Spyware can negatively affect your phone’s battery life because the device has to work harder when it’s constantly running a malicious application.
Tip: If you have an old phone, you may need to upgrade or replace the current battery. However, if your phone is under five years old, you should consider running a spyware scan first.
Check to see if your device is warmer than usual
Before attributing your phone overheating to a cybersecurity threat, check to see if any of these common causes could be the culprit.
- Sun exposure
- Several open apps
- Incompatible charger
- High screen brightness
If none of these fit the bill, it is possible that spyware is running in the background, overworking your phone and causing it to get hot. This is increasingly likely if your phone is hot when it’s not in use, or if the device slows to a crawl.
Tip: While iPhones are less likely to fall prey to malware than Android phones, any device can be susceptible to threats—especially when jailbroken. If your phone is overheating, verify that you’ve installed all updates and run a spyware scan.
Run a spyware scan
Spyware scans can help keep your phone free of malware by identifying malicious files, links, and websites in real time. All you have to do is download an app on your phone, which will alert you when it detects a risk.
Tip: Choose reputable security software like Norton 360 Deluxe to defend your phone against viruses, malware, and spyware—helping to prevent phone camera takeovers.
How to protect your phone camera from hackers
The best way to keep your phone camera from being hacked is to take a proactive approach. Here are a few tips for protecting your phone against camera hacking attempts:
- Avoid suspicious links and attachments: When users click on malicious links, files, or media—they can create a gateway, allowing hackers to install spyware on their device.
- Be cautious about some third-party apps: Third-party apps are made by independent developers and are downloaded by the phone’s owner from a marketplace like the Apple App Store or Google Play. To be listed on these stores, they have to meet privacy and security standards. Apps from third-party app stores may not have the same standards – hackers can hide spyware in these applications or hack legitimate options with subpar security.
- Don’t jailbreak your phone: Jailbreaking means intentionally removing the manufacturer’s software restrictions. People typically do this to enhance features and customize their devices, but it opens the device up to cybersecurity threats.
- Strengthen your privacy settings: Be nitpicky about your privacy settings—only allow trusted apps that need it to access your camera and location. Also, secure your device with a strong password and use multifactor authentication on apps that store sensitive information.
- Use mobile antivirus software: Invest in powerful antivirus software for your phone to stop hackers from accessing private information or your phone camera.
Help protect your phone camera from prying eyes with Norton 360 Deluxe
Keep your phone safe by planning your defense against hackers. To maximize security, download security software that comes with a powerful spyware scanner and a proven history of blocking hackers and catching covert cybersecurity threats—learn more about Norton 360 Deluxe.
FAQs: How to know if someone is watching you through your phone camera
Wondering how someone can watch you through your phone camera? We’ve got answers.
How can spyware control your phone’s camera?
Mobile spyware is malware that allows hackers to steal information and watch anything within view of your phone camera.
It can also enable them to access your microphone, location, calendar, and contacts. This makes it possible for hackers to record your videos and calls.
Can your phone microphone be hacked?
Yes, your phone’s microphone is hackable, and if someone targets your camera, they may also target the mic.
Check microphone privacy and security to review which apps are currently using it. If you see a suspicious app or still think your device may be exposed, use a mobile scanner to catch hidden malware.
If someone hacks my iCloud account, can they see me through my camera?
A hacker won’t be able to watch you in real-time through your phone camera just by hacking your iCloud account. However, they can see any media you sync to the cloud.
Can websites access your phone camera?