How to Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Being Tracked, Tapped, or Monitored by Spy Software - A Guide

How to Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Being Tracked, Tapped or Monitored by Spy Software

Published on: December 25, 2022
Last Updated: January 5, 2023
If you want to know, how to tell if your cell phone is being tracked, tapped, or monitored by spy software, you are in the right place. Let’s have a look.
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The spy software (spyware) industry has witnessed a surge in the last couple of years.

Found pretty much everywhere, even in your regular Google Play/Apple App store, they are readily available for all users to install.

Even on your phone! So, is there a way to tell if your cell phone is being tracked? Yes, there is.

What does tracking a mobile phone do?

Well, spyware provides access to messages, record audio calls, and tap your phone using the built-in microphone.

Once this type of app is installed on your device, your privacy is well gone down the drain.

Here’s how to tell if your cell phone is being tracked, tapped or monitored by spy software.

How to Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Being Tracked, Tapped or Monitored by Spy Software (10 Signs)

An expert hacker can implant a piece of spyware into your device just by having you open a shady link.

For those with less technical prowess, social engineering is another way to go and they can use mind games to get you to lend them your device for a couple of minutes, which is more than enough.

Either way, once spyware’s in, it can be pretty difficult to spot it, let alone get it out of the system.

How to spot spyware on Android on iPhone then?

Here are 10 telltale signs that show some certainty that you’re being tracked.

A single one of these can indicate a malfunctioning device, a broken app, or a dead battery.

A combination of these, however? You’re most probably already a victim of clandestine surveillance.

Let’s cut to the chase.

1. Unsolicited Reboots

Mobile Reboot

Has your phone started experiencing random reboots recently?

Unless your device is malfunctioning, it is very much possible that this is a clear indication that someone has gained remote access to your device.

What’s more is that, if the perpetrator has the ability to cause an unsolicited reboot, they almost certainly have admin-level authorization to your phone’s settings.

In other words, they can do whatever they want to.

Don’t raise the alarm yet, though. Random reboots can also be signs of:

  • An app gone rogue and/or malfunctioning. Check the list of installed apps for anything that behaves in a weird way and remove any suspects to fix it if that is the case.
  • An oddity in your OS. If there’s been an update that you have postponed installing for a while now, it could have caused the “consciousness” of your phone to flicker – doing it now might solve all your rebooting issues.

Nothing of the above worked?

Well, start thinking in the direction of your device being compromised with spyware and having to do the necessary steps to reclaim it from malevolent digital users.

2. Poor Performance

Mobile Poor Performance

Lag, delays, or your phone simply slowing down to a crawl? This may just as well be caused by spying software.

Spyware works by operating among the background processes of your device, in order for it to remain concealed.

However, it works with data-intensive operations, such as uploading data including the big ones such as photos and videos, to an outside server.

Naturally, this stuff takes processing power and can grind your device’s performance to a halt, especially if you happen to be doing something on the phone when everything occurs. 

To prevent this, make sure that you utilize the app settings in your phone to keep track of active applications.

Familiarize with them to know which ones are verified to be installed by you and single out anything suspicious.

Also make sure to check their permissions – if anything has suspiciously many permissions, think whether they are truly necessary.

Found a suspect?

Delete it and see whether your device’s performance has improved.

Take note that spyware gets built with increasingly more cunning, so they get more adept at concealing their tracks.

In other words, they might have found a way to keep their app hidden from the active software list.

To fish them out, you might need the assistance of an antivirus program.

3. Weird Text Messages

Text Messages

In their essence, text messages are just lines or strings that can be used to issue a command to an app in your phone.

Via cryptic text messages, devious hackers can take screenshots, detect your geographic coordinates, and even obtain full control over the compromised device.

Even if they just serve to communicate with an external server, they can still be a tool of assistance to the spyware app.

Seeing these can definitely show that your cell phone is being tracked by spy software. Any message that has not been sent by you is a cause for alarm.

If it appears to be something nonsense, random conversation that you most certainly didn’t have, or weird, out-of-context snippets, it should be checked out.

And it is absolutely imperative that you do not open any links that you get from these weird messages.

Ever. We warned you!

4. Overheating Device

If your phone gets hot on touch, even when you’re not doing anything with it, then there’s a high chance that there’s more happening in it than meets the eye.

Clandestine software has this habit of going active when it thinks that you are not watching, but activities with high processing power costs tend to heat things up a bit.

In fact, recording communication and transferring files to an external server can raise a couple of degrees around the device, no problem.

However other, less subversive and threatening processes could also be a root cause for an overheating device.

Hardware issues or suboptimal device settings are the most common cause of device overheating, so if this is the sole strange occurrence on the list, you might want to look for a technician to do some maintenance. 

Again, you might also want to check the app list in your settings. List them according to the phone’s resources and check the top candidate.

An app consumes much more energy than it reasonably should?

You have caught the likely wrong-doer.

Alternatively, do a sweep with an antivirus program. It should flush out any bad apples from the basket.

5. Unusually High Data Usage

High Data Usage

Abnormally high cellular data usage is always a bad sign.

It is almost certainly a sign that your device is communicating with someone without your consent or even knowledge.

The goal of every ill-intended hacker out there is to gather your private data.

They can then use this data to blackmail you or sell you information on one of the many markets on the Dark Side of the Internet.

In order to do this, they have to make the phone transmit the data over the Internet, which, naturally, requires expenditures of cellular data.

A good way to prevent this is to always keep track of your monthly cellular data usage.

If you see spikes or consistently high usage that you didn’t expend or require, it might be wise to look into the matter.

How do you keep track of this issue, then?

Monitoring App Data Usage on Android

  1. Open “Settings“.
  2. Go to “Connections“. 
  3. Press “Data Usage“. 
  4. Navigate towards “Mobile Data Usage“.
  5. A list of apps will pop up, ranked according to their use of your cellular data.

In this menu you will be able to see the total data over a given period of time (usually on a monthly basis) and the apps that spent the data individually.

Take a good look at the list and check for those suspicious activities for clues.

Monitoring App Data Usage on iPhone

  1. Click “Settings.”
  2. Navigate to “Mobile Data.”
  3. Choose “Current Period.”
  4. Here, in this menu, you can see the data usage for apps individually.

Sure thing, the cause for alarmingly high data usage can be something innocent, like a new app that is still downloading stuff.

If no rational explanation can be found for an app’s excessively large data usage, it is time for you to do some detailed check-up of your device.

6. Unrecognized Apps

You wouldn’t think that malevolent apps would be installed on your phone just like regular devices, usually.

After all, they are supposed to be clandestine and undetectable?

Well, while that is the case most of the time, sometimes these spying apps get installed just like regular apps and can be detected.

As an example, parental control apps (readily available in both Google and Apple stores) are installed just like regular apps.

It is a good practice to run a quick check on a regular basis and go through your installed apps every once in a while.

If you come across an unrecognized app among those installed on your device, you should do a more careful analysis to find out what exactly it does and how it got there in the first place.

After all, that is a recipe for spyware apps!

How to Check Installed Apps on Android

  1. Open “Settings.”
  2. Click on “Apps.”
  3. Press on the search icon and type “spy” or “monitor” and deinstall any app that comes up that looks unfamiliar to you.
  4. Even if nothing shows up when you type these two keywords, go over the app list and make sure there are no apps that you didn’t install yourself.

How to Check Installed Apps on iPhone

To check for any installed spy apps on iPhone, follow the steps below:

  1. Go to “Settings.”
  2. Go through the app list and pay attention to any unrecognized apps that you didn’t install.
  3. Just like in the Android version of this step, it does not have to have a suspicious name: if you do not remember how it got there, it should be suspicious.

7. Fast-Draining Battery

Mobile Fast-Draining Battery

Two causes can make your battery drain fast. One reason could be that the battery is old and/or dying.

This can happen for various reasons, like using your phone while it is charging for an extended period of time, or plain old age.

The second cause can be narrowed down to a single app that consumes way too many resources. This second case is the most common one when it comes to spyware.

You can tell that your cell phone is being tracked by spy software if your battery life has become a fraction of what it used to be.

If you have a spare one, try swapping them and see if there are any improvements. If there are, well, it is down to that battery, not spying.

If the problem persists, check the amount of power used by your apps. You might just find your spying culprit there. 

8. Shutting Down Takes Too Long

In order to safely shut down, your phone needs to close all running programs first.

If your phone is infected with spyware that is actively running in the background and transmitting various types of data, then shutting down becomes an extended process.

After all, it would be a pretty lousy spying app if it shut down without sending a report, right?

If coupled with more signs from this list, it might be high time to consider clearing out your phone from suspected apps. 

9. Strange Background Noises During Calls

If you ever watched a spy movie, you know that background noises are some of the clearest indicators that someone’s eavesdropping.

The same goes for digital eavesdropping and spyware as well, as the software that records sound tends to make weird beeps and flash noises out of nowhere.

If you happen to hear some of these sounds during calls, take note and be extra careful.

Yes, it can be a bad signal, but if this happens coupled with more signs from the list, it could be something much more sinister than radio or Internet interference.

10. Signs of Activity During Standby Mode

As we mentioned earlier in the article, standby modes are ideal for most spyware since the mode indicates that the owner is not around.

This makes standby mode a perfect time for it to stream info and send reports.

This is indicated by various flashing lights or unusual noises, even when the device is on standby.

If this happens, you check the phone, but there are no notifications or indications that something “regular” happened, the chances are that, well, something “irregular” did the work.

If it occurs frequently, be warned that an app is doing clandestine work.

Most Common Spy Apps for Android and iPhone

Spy-Phone

The market is filled with spy apps, but the most common ones do stand out from the competition.

Some are used as parental monitoring apps, while others get installed by jealous spouses or partners.

In any case, be on the lookout for these:

  1. uMobix
  2. mSpy
  3. Flexispy
  4. Spyera
  5. Ikey Monitor
  6. Clevguard

Stay vigilant even for other apps, as you can never be too safe.

How to Remove Spyware From Your Phone

Moblie Spyware

1. Remove the Spyware From Apps

Like we said, some spyware does show up in the app list and are relatively simple to uninstall. Do it just like with any other app!

2. Use an Antivirus Program

Most professional surveillance apps, however, do a better job at hiding than this and they require you to get a good antivirus program.

Do a full sweep & scan and the antivirus should do the rest by itself.

3. Do a Complete Phone Reset

Well, if all else fails, a full phone reset won’t.

Restoring your device to factory settings may be a bit extreme, but it will definitely cleanse your device of malevolent software, including spyware.

How to Restore to Factory Reset on an Android 

  1. Click “Settings.”
  2. Select “General Management.”
  3. Press “Reset” followed by “Factory data reset.”
  4. You’ll see a warning with a list of all things which will be deleted.
  5. Go to the bottom and click on “Reset.” Enter your password.
  6. Wait for the reset to complete.

How to Restore to Factory Reset on an iPhone

  1. Navigate towards “Settings” and press on “General.”
  2. Scroll all the way down, then click “Transfer or Reset iPhone.”
  3. Tap on “Reset All Settings.”
  4. Type in your passcode to confirm.
  5. Wait for the reset to complete.

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Conclusion

So there you go, these were the most common signals that show you how to tell if your cell phone is being tracked, tapped or monitored by spy software.

Nothing in today’s digital world goes unnoticed, spy software included.

No matter how good these apps are or how secret their mechanisms, everything has to leave at least some trace on your device.

If you ever notice, either singled out or in combination with another sign, unsolicited reboots, slow performance, weird text messages, overheating device, unusually high data usage, certain unrecognized apps, fast-draining battery, long shutdowns, strange background noises during calls, or signs of activity during standby period, do the spyware removal steps that we have provided you with and your worries should be gone.

Nothing can compare to sound sleep and no privacy worries, right?

Also, bear in mind that spy software is illegal, except in the case of parental observation of a minor’s device.

Be mindful how you operate with spy software and remember that you can take legal actions against anyone who decides to spy on you.

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Written by Jason Wise

Hi! I’m Jason. I tend to gravitate towards business and technology topics, with a deep interest in social media, privacy and crypto. I enjoy testing and reviewing products, so you’ll see a lot of that from me here on EarthWeb.
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If you want to know, how to tell if your cell phone is being tracked, tapped, or monitored by spy software, you are in the right place. Let’s have a look.
How to Tell If Your Cell Phone Is Being Tracked, Tapped, or Monitored by Spy Software - A Guide
EarthWeb is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Stay on top of the latest technology trends — delivered directly to your inbox, free!

Subscription Form Posts

Don't worry, we don't spam

Written by Jason Wise

Hi! I’m Jason. I tend to gravitate towards business and technology topics, with a deep interest in social media, privacy and crypto. I enjoy testing and reviewing products, so you’ll see a lot of that from me here on EarthWeb.

Latest Stories

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