If you’re a smartphone user, you’ve likely thought to yourself at least once, “Can someone track my phone without me knowing?” You’re not alone in wondering this. As we become more reliant on our phones for both personal and professional reasons, it’s important to stay aware of the potential safety risks that come with owning a smartphone.
Though people commonly think tracking is reserved for government agencies or criminals trying to access their most sensitive information, anyone can track your phone without providing permission.
In this blog post, I’m going to outline the various ways someone may be able to track your phone—and importantly how you can protect yourself from unwanted surveillance and malicious hacking attempts while still enjoying all the positive benefits of having a powerful device like a smartphone.
Can Someone Track Your Phone Without Permission?
The answer is, unfortunately, yes. You may not realize it, but there are several ways in which someone can track your phone without your knowledge or permission. There is a plethora of monitoring apps and spyware out there. This kind of spyware is also referred to as “stalkerware”.
Mobile spyware, or what is sometimes called stalkerware, can be installed on your phone without you knowing. It allows the person who installed it to see information such as calls, text messages, emails, location, photos, and browsing history. In some cases, the device may be able to take photos and record nearby conversations.
Spyware is created to go unnoticed so that it can keep tabs on your phone usage without you being aware. Although, if you know the ways, a majority of spyware is detectable.
12 Ways to Tell if There Is Spyware on Your Phone
It is very important to know the right signs and ways to detect any sort of stalkerware or spyware including the monitoring apps on your phone. Below, I have jotted down 12 ways to tell if someone is spying on you.
1. Check if Your Device Is Rooted or Jailbroken
‘Rooting’ an Android device or ‘jailbreaking’ an iOS device enables users to circumnavigate the official app stores and install unsanctioned apps. If your phone hasn’t been jailbroken or rooted but suddenly shows signs that it has, that’s a huge red flag that something fishy is happening.
If you want to know if an iPhone has been jailbroken, look for the app called ‘Cydia’ on our iPhone. Cydia is only found on jailbroken phones and allows users to install software not available on the App Store. If you see it installed, then your phone was likely Jailbroken.
On an Android, you can determine if your device has been rooted by downloading a Root Checker app from the Google Play store. These apps will allow you to check whether or not your phone is actually rooted.
2. See if Your Device Is Overheating
One of the most common signs that someone is tracking your phone is if it suddenly starts to overheat. Monitoring apps and spyware can cause battery drainage and increased CPU usage, which in turn will cause your phone to become hot.
If you notice that your device is getting way hotter than usual, then there’s a good chance that it has been compromised.
3. Look for Any Unexplained High Data Usage
This is one of the biggest signs that there is something strange going on If you notice your phone data consumption spiked and can’t explain why it might be a sign that spyware is running in the background.
The spy app sends data back to the person who installed it, so an uptick in your phone’s data usage could be a sign that you have a problem.
To see how much data you have left on your iPhone, go to Settings and then click Mobile Data. Your total data usage will be displayed, or you can scroll down to check the mobile data consumption of specific apps.
To monitor your mobile data consumption on Android, proceed to Settings, then to Network & Internet, and lastly to Data Usage. Once there, locate ‘Mobile’ and you’ll be able to view the amount of cellular data currently being used by your phone.
4. Check Your Device for Any Strange Applications
If you see any apps that you don’t recognize, then it’s a good indication that someone installed them without your knowledge or permission. Spyware is designed to run in stealth mode but many of these apps have suspicious names like “spy” or “monitor”.
In addition, if you notice any applications running in the background that you didn’t install yourself, then this could also be an indication of spyware on your phone.
5. Analyze Your Battery Consumption (See If It Is Draining Fast)
Another sign of spyware is if your phone battery runs down way faster than usual. Spy apps are designed to run in the background without alerting you, and this can take a toll on your battery life.
If you observe that your battery drains quickly or even shuts down completely when it’s fully charged, then there’s a good chance that someone is tracking your phone.
6. Check Your Phone for Strange Text Messages
Another way to tell if your smartphone has been compromised is by looking out for strange text messages sent from unknown numbers. Some forms of spyware will send texts with shortcodes that can be used by the person who installed the software to carry out certain tasks.
Be wary of any strange or out-of-the-ordinary text messages you receive, as they could be coming from spyware apps. More often than not, if a message is coded, it is in affiliation with spyware.
Some services allow outsiders to send hidden commands via SMS message that can force your phone to take a picture and email it to them, wipe your SD card clean, take a screenshot, and many other equally invasive things.
7. Try Shutting Down Your Phone & Check for Any Problems
If you really want to know if your phone is being tracked, try shutting it down completely and see what happens. If there are any unexpected issues or alerts when it starts back up then that could be a sign that someone is tracking it without your knowledge.
Occasionally, monitoring apps will interfere with a phone’s shutdown process, causing the device to either not turn off correctly or take an abnormal amount of time to do so.
The monitoring app technology doesn’t allow phones to turn off completely, which then prevents eavesdropping. Though this event was the result of a sophisticated and targeted attack, it goes to show that this form of spying is possible.
8. See if Your Phone Unexpectedly Reboots
Another sign of spyware activity is if your phone unexpectedly reboots itself. Spy apps often require a reboot in order to complete their installation process and they may also reboot on their own periodically as part of an internal update or maintenance routine.
9. Keep an Eye on Your Phone Processing Speed
If your phone is being tracked without your knowledge, it could cause the device to slow down or lag. Spy apps tend to run in the background and can consume more processor cycles than usual, thus making everything else—including loading webpages and opening apps—run slower.
10. Take Screenshots & Check the Quality
If you think your phone is being tracked without your knowledge, you can take screenshots and check the quality. Spy apps tend to decrease the quality of images and videos as they are sent back to the person who installed them.
If you notice that a screenshot taken from your device looks blurrier than usual or doesn’t have as much detail, then it could be a sign that someone is tracking your phone without your permission.
11. Analyze the Working of Autocorrect on Your Device
If the autocorrect in your phone is working strangely, it is a big sign that there is a keylogger installed on your device. Keyloggers are a form of spyware that monitors and saves all keystrokes. By spying on your phone, someone could use a keylogger to record your messages and login information.
A keylogger may be present on your phone if you notice that the autocorrect function is not working properly. If the keylogger is hindering how to autocorrect words or if it’s acting slow, it may be a sign that someone is spying on your phone.
12. Check Your Phone’s Status in Sleep/Standby Mode
Your phone enters standby mode when you’re not actively using it, but it can still receive messages and calls. However, your phone shouldn’t light up or make noise for any other reason while in standby mode.
If your computer is running slowly, it may be a symptom of spyware. Furthermore, your phone’s screen should be turned off, rather than just have the screen dimmed, when in standby mode.
How to Prevent Your Phone from Monitoring and Spy Apps?
Fortunately, there are several ways to protect your phone from monitoring apps.
Install a Reliable Anti-Virus Software/App
The best way to stop someone from monitoring and spying on your phone without your permission is to use good antivirus software. Make sure you keep the app up-to-date so that it can detect any new threats.
Only Download Trusted Apps
Be careful about what apps you download on your phone. Before downloading any app, look for user reviews and double-check its security features.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Phone’s Accessibility Settings
Your phone has a variety of accessibility settings that could help someone track or spy on your phone without your permission. Make sure to keep an eye out for unexpected changes in these settings, such as allowing background data or granting access to system components like microphone or camera.
Password Protect Your Device
Another way to prevent someone from monitoring and spying on your phone is by setting up a password or PIN to lock it. This will stop anyone from accessing the device without proper authorization.
Keep Tabs on Apps & Data Permissions
You should also check data-related permissions before downloading an app and make sure that they are not requesting access to information or functions that would enable them to monitor or spy on your device.
Never Open Any Link From Untrusted Sources
You should also never click on suspicious links, open attachments from unknown sources, or install apps from untrusted sources as these might contain malicious software which could allow someone else to gain access to your phone and track its activity.
Manage Your Phone Permissions Carefully
Don’t allow apps to use your location or access your photos without a good justification. Be wary of official apps as well. The “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone allows users to locate people and devices, while Google’s “Find My Device” and Family Link apps fulfill a similar purpose on Android devices.
Regularly Update Your Phone
By updating your cell phone’s operating system, you can improve your security by removing any newly discovered flaws. Updating your iOS will also reestablish Apple’s protective measures if your phone has been jailbroken in the past.
Can You Report Spying to Authorities?
If you think someone is monitoring your phone without your permission, you can file a report with the police or other authorities. You should also contact your cell phone carrier to find out if any suspicious activity has been detected on your account. Lastly, it’s important to stay vigilant by regularly checking for signs of spying and taking steps to protect your device from potential threats.
In a Word
It can be very disconcerting to think that someone might be tracking and monitoring your phone without your permission. However, by taking the steps outlined above, you can make sure that no one is able to spy on your device without your knowledge.
I recommend keeping yourself updated with the latest advancements in the realm of spyware and prevention.