Undoubtedly, it is becoming easier for hackers to access our phones as spying apps are getting sneakier and harder to detect. In 2021 The New York Times reported a 65% increase in the number of spyware-infected phones. More recently, reports reveal that even the former UK prime minister Liz Truss had her phone hacked, most likely by Russian intelligence experts.
Says an expert from VPNOverview:
“Modern spyware installed by an advanced hacker is notoriously hard to find on your phone for the average user. Antivirus software such as Norton 360 is recommended to catch any spyware and protect your phone from being infected by spyware in the future.
“Whilst some spyware is hidden by hackers, some spyware programs will appear amongst your apps. These apps may show up as parental control apps intended to be used to monitor a child’s cyber safety. However, they could have been installed by a jealous ex-partner to spy on you.
“It is essential to keep track of unfamiliar apps and delete them immediately. Look out for apps by the name of mSpy, Spyera, Flexispy, Umobix, Ikey Monitor, and Clevguard.”
But how can you detect spyware on your iPhone and Android in the first place? Below are ten common signs indicating that your phone is being monitored. If multiple of these signs are present, you very well might be dealing with spyware:
1. Slow performance
A possible indication of spyware operating on your phone is constant slowing down or lagging. The slow performance of your phone could result from the resource-intensive spyware constantly running in the background, uploading your data, photos, and documents to an external server. Make sure this isn’t happening by checking your phone for any unfamiliar apps and scanning any hidden apps using an antivirus program. Deleting these may improve the performance of your device.
2. Random reboots
Is your phone rebooting itself without your authorization? This can indicate that someone has remote, administrator-level access to your phone. The hacker can do whatever they want with your device if this is the case. To rule out the presence of spyware, you can update your phone’s operating system, and delete any malfunctioning apps. If neither of these solutions solves the random reboots, you may have spyware on your phone.
3. Strange text messages
Hackers can use text messages to take a screenshot, detect your location or even gain control of your phone. You should be not only vigilant of incoming texts but also outgoing texts as a hacker can send text messages from your phone to communicate with their own server.
Any message that looks unfamiliar, sounds like gibberish or appears outright strange should be ignored. This is especially the case for unfamiliar texts containing links; these links can allow a hacker access to your phone if clicked on.
An overheating phone can indicate that a malicious app is running in the background, especially if the overheating occurs when the phone is on standby. You can rule out the threat of spyware by first checking that your phone doesn’t have a hardware issue or checking that the apps you have installed are not large resource consumers.
You can go into your phone’s settings and check your app list to see which apps use the most resources; apps are usually presented in order of most resource use. Some apps will have legitimate reasons for taking up energy on your phone, but any that use more than they should be the culprit and should be deleted.
5. Unusually high data usage
A hacker’s primary goal is to harvest your data, to sell it to the black market or use it to blackmail you. To gather this information, a hacker will remotely access your phone and transfer your files to their server, which requires data usage on your end. Therefore, if your cellular data usage seems unusually high, this could indicate that something suspicious is going on with your phone. It is a good idea to keep track of your monthly data use to identify any unexpected spikes.
6. Unfamiliar apps in your app list
Some viruses and spyware are cleverly hidden amongst your legitimate apps. It is good practice to regularly go through your installed apps and check for any apps you do not recognize or don’t know the function of. Uninstall these apps by going to the settings on your phone and locating your apps list.
7. Battery draining fast
Your phone’s battery life can be affected by two things: age, causing it to malfunction, or your phone is using a lot of resources that require a lot of energy. In the latter case, this could be caused by a legitimate app consuming too many resources or something more sinister, like spyware.
To rule out the possibility of a hacker spying on your phone, you can replace your phone battery by a suitable technician or by yourself if possible. If your battery life hasn’t improved, this could be due to spyware executing various tasks on your phone.
8. Taking a long time to shut down
If your phone takes a long time to shut down, it may be infected with spyware. This is because spyware tends to run constantly in the background transmitting your data to third parties, and your phone will be trying to close down all of these hidden programs before it can shut down.
9. Weird sounds during phone calls
Phone tapping is perhaps one of the most well-known indicators that your phone is being monitored as many movies and TV shows portray this form of hacking. Spyware can be used to eavesdrop on your phone calls, and it frequently makes beeping and flashing sounds while doing so. These sounds should not be dismissed as they could be a warning sign of spyware.
10. Signs of activity in standby mode
Suppose your phone begins to light up or make unusual noises when in standby mode; your phone could be infected with spyware. If these noises and flashing lights are not due to notifications of calls, texts, emails, or any other familiar activity, you should check to see if there are any legitimate apps that are malfunctioning or restart your phone.
How do I remove spyware from my phone?
- Deinstall apps that you suspect to be spyware
- Use a good antivirus program for smartphones: this will thoroughly scan your phone for hidden spyware apps
- Do a full phone reset to factory settings: this will remove any third-party apps from your phone. Make sure to back up any important files if you decide to take this action
How do I avoid spyware from infecting my phone?
- Don’t click on any suspicious links
- Only download apps from official app stores
- Restrict app permissions where possible
- Don’t trust strangers with your phone
- Use a VPN to protect your online presence