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How to tell if your cell phone is tracked, tapped, or monitored by spy software

A woman checking her cell phone to see if it is being tracked, tapped, or monitored by spy software.

You might think nobody’s spying on you, but powerful spy software is out there. If your phone’s battery is rapidly depleting or your data usage is skyrocketing, that could be a sign that someone’s tracking your phone. Read on to learn how to see if your phone is being tapped. And install Norton 360 for Mobile to encrypt your online connection to help prevent tracking and protect your personal data.

Why would someone want to spy on me?

Phone bugging can happen to anyone, from political figures to journalists to normal, everyday folks. Maybe you have information that someone else wants. If you’re in business it could be details about sales strategies, new product development, and so on. It could be to find out details about your private life, or it could be related to a court case. 

If you’ve never spied on anyone, the concept of you being spied upon might seem unlikely. Other people might feel less hesitant. Technology makes spying a lot easier than it ever used to be. If your phone has been handled by someone else — for instance, during repairs or for some other reason — a backdoor application could have been installed to piggyback on your GPS service, or spy software could have been installed on your mobile device. 

There’s a large, legitimate, and thriving industry dedicated to snooping on others via spy software. And some of this software is powerful. But it’s not so powerful that you can’t spot clues if you know what you’re looking for.

How to tell if your cell phone is being spied on

There are several tell-tale signs that suggest your phone is being tracked, tapped, or monitored in some way. The signs can be quite subtle but when you know what to look out for, they can also be glaring:

Unusual sounds during calls

If there are clicking sounds, static, or distant voices coming through your phone during conversations it could be a sign that you’re being snooped on.

This is not normal for today’s phones on digital networks. It’s a thing of the past and associated with old-style analogue networks.

If you are hearing fragmentary voices, it’s a possibility that your phone has been tapped.

Decreased battery capacity

Reduced battery performance is another indication of a bugged cell phone. If a mobile phone is tapped, it is recording your activities and transmitting them to a third party. This leaves a footprint in the form of increased battery usage and as a result the battery loses life faster.

A tapped cell phone can also be constantly recording conversations in the room, even when the phone appears to be idle. And, as a result, it will chew through battery life.

You can test this by using your battery in another phone of the same model and compare the results. Is your phone using more battery power than a phone of the same model and software? If so, it could be that your phone is bugged, or it’s defective in some way.

Phone shows activity when not in use

Is your phone making noises or lighting up its screen when you’re not using it? Call and message alerts to one side your phone should be silent when not in use.

Does it also reboot for no reason at all? If so it’s possible that someone has remote access to your device.

Phone takes a long time to shut down

Before a smartphone shuts down it must complete any tasks that are processing. If your phone is transmitting data to someone it will have to complete the process before it shuts down.

As a result, if a phone takes longer than usual to turn off especially after a call, text, email, or web browsing, it could be sending information to a third party.

Battery temperature feels warm

A further indicator of a possible phone tap is the temperature of your battery. If the phone feels warm even when you haven’t used your phone, it could be still in use secretly transmitting data.

Keep in mind, however, that this is only a potential sign.

Receiving unusual texts

Are you receiving strange text messages containing random numbers, symbols, or characters? The remote-control feature of spy software works by sending secret coded text messages to your phone, and in some cases, these can be seen if the software is not working correctly. If this happens regularly, you could have a spy app on your phone.

Increased data usage

Some of the less reliable spy apps use extra data to send the information collected from your phone, so look out for any unexplained increase in your monthly data usage. 

More advanced spy software programs data usage has been reduced and will be almost impossible to spot but the poor programs will show significant data use.

How to find spy software on your phone (Android and iOS)


It’s possible to find spy software on an Android by looking inside the files on the phone. Go to Settings – Applications – Manage Applications or Running Services, and you may be able to spot suspicious looking files.

Good spy programs usually disguise the file names so that they don’t stand out but sometimes they may contain terms like spy, monitor, stealth, and so on. Some of the poorer quality software programs are still quite easy to spot.

Don’t worry, if you are only looking for confirmation of spy software you won’t do any damage to the phone, but it’s probably best not to remove or delete any files unless you really know what you are doing.

And if you do find suspicious software it’s a good idea to take your device to someone who does know what they are doing. 

It’s unsettling to think that online surveillance software may be installed on your phone. You need a strong security app to protect you. Norton Mobile Security for Android includes powerful anti-malware features to help you identify and remove spyware and other threats. 


Generally, if you have an iPhone and someone wants to install spy software they have to jailbreak the phone first.

That said, vulnerabilities have been discovered in the past that allowed someone with access to a network used by the device to download significant amounts of personal data. These holes have been patched but you can never be too certain about new vulnerabilities emerging

Sometimes you might find software on your iPhone that you don’t remember downloading. You can check the Apple store and see if that software is available. If not, then it’s likely your phone has been jail broken.

Looking deeper inside the iPhone directories is more difficult than with Android but there is an easy way to remove spy software from the iPhone. Simply upgrade to the latest OS version, which will remove the jailbreak and any external software not from Apple. But make sure to back up any important data on your phone before you do this. 

And keep your iPhone safe with a dedicated mobile security app. Norton Mobile Security for iOS helps you protect your email, stay safe on public Wi-Fi, and avoid dangerous websites. 

Factory resets

Resetting your phone to its factory settings, whether Android or iPhone, will remove any spy software, but again be sure to back up your data such as contacts, photos, and music or you will lose them.

In today’s online world, strong mobile security is essential. Norton 360 for Mobile includes a built-in VPN with bank-grade encryption to help prevent your phone from being tracked. Plus, it includes powerful antivirus features to help block malware and spyware. Help keep your personal data safer with Norton.

Clare Stouffer
  • Clare Stouffer
  • Gen employee
Clare Stouffer, a Gen employee, is a writer and editor for the company’s blogs. She covers various topics in cybersecurity.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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