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

A man’s hands hold a smartphone that’s connected to an internet web page.

September 1, 2022

There’s some powerful spy software available for snooping on mobile phones. You might think nobody would spy on you, but would they?

Well, bugging happens at all sorts of levels from political figures to anonymous everyday people. If you find your mobile phone chewing through battery life or your data usage rockets skywards, these could be signs of snooping. 

And, if not, read on to become acquainted with snooping clues. They could be useful. 

Why would someone want to spy on me?

It’s a question that is asked a lot especially by people who have been spied on. 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)

Android

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. 

iPhone

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. 

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.

Cyber threats have evolved, and so have we.

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