Modern smartphones are fascinating. These little computers have enough power to have our whole digital lives stored. And if it doesn’t fit in the phone, it certainly does in the cloud. All our music, images, and conversations live inside these nifty gadgets. It’s rather convenient, but it also makes it a target for spying.
There are plenty of possible spies to be worried about. For starters, hackers and other digital attackers are out there trying to get your personal information. Then you also have to worry about jealous boyfriends/girlfriends, your phone’s past owners, parents, and even the government.
Is someone spying on me?
How can you even know when someone is spying on your Android phone or tablet? It’s a bit tricky, but there are a few red flags you can look for. Let’s show you some of them.
Spyware is constantly working on getting your data. This is why devices often get slow when they’re running this sneaky software in the background. Be worried if your phone is suddenly dropping performance for no apparent reason. This could also be due to other issues, so check out our dedicated post on how to speed up a smartphone first.
Battery life suddenly dropping
Noticing that a phone doesn’t last as much as it did when first purchased is normal. Batteries start dying with time. Plus, you are probably throwing more work at devices as you continue to expand your app collection. But sudden drops in battery life are not normal.
Tracking software can take up a lot of resources. These are working in the background, running your GPS, and doing other things… sometimes all the time. Unexpected battery drains could mean someone is tracking your device, or it could be something else in your phone pulling all that juice. Check the link below to see if your phone could be dying for reasons other than spies.
Check your precious data
A tracking app will try to update the attacker constantly. This means it will need data… and plenty of it. Are you noticing unusual usage of your data pool? A possible attack could be the reason why this is happening.
This is especially bad because unlimited data subscribers often get throttled after using a certain amount of data. Furthermore, you might still be in a limited data plan, which would worsen the situation.
Related: The best data saver apps
How to check data usage:
- Open your phone’s Settings app.
- Select Network & internet.
- Go to Mobile to see how much data you use.
- You can access more details by going into Mobile data usage.
- You can see more details and even check how much data each app uses.
Temperature suddenly rising
Is your phone getting a little too hot? This is normal during hard-core gaming sessions or while charging, but it shouldn’t happen when your phone is idle, sitting in your pocket, or doing light tasks. If you are noticing unusual temperatures on your handset, it might have fallen victim to spying.
We aren’t talking about paranormal activity… though sometimes it may seem like it. Sometimes phones that are being spied on make weird noises during calls. This could include white noise, beeping, or simple echoing. Of course, we all have bad reception sometimes, but it shouldn’t be a habitual thing.
Phone turning on and off
Other usual signs that your device may have been compromised are random boots and shutdowns. Now, don’t go too crazy with this one, as some buggy phones do this at times, but keep your eyes open for other clues if you see this type of odd behavior.
Are you getting some weird text messages? Maybe ones with a bunch of letters and numbers that seem to be code. Maybe just random talk from unknown numbers. They can be anything, really.
Attackers often use these to communicate with the device and give it a command. If an attacker needs your location, for example, he can request it by sending you a message with a pre-determined code.
Any weird apps around?
Have you noticed some weird apps showing up out of nowhere? This could be malware or spyware, which can often download and install apps on your smartphone without approval.
Is your phone doing things when it shouldn’t?
Notification lights, sounds, and screens activating are normal, but it’s not OK to see these things happening when they shouldn’t. You should be concerned if your phone is showing signs of activity when nothing is going on. If your screen turns on or the phone makes a noise, and there is no notification in sight, this may be a sign someone is spying on you.
Issues turning off or restarting
Hackers can make turning off or restarting a phone complicated. Some spyware can even prevent such actions.
Weird browser history entries
Look into your browser history and see if there’s anything weird in there. More specifically, try to see if there’s anything in there about phone spying software. Someone may have used your own browser to download spyware. Likewise, people who want to steal your private data might also be looking around websites to see what they can take.
How can I fight spying and tracking apps?
OK. So you may have some spyware installed on your phone – now what?
Avoid rooting phones and unofficial app downloads
The Google Play Store does its best to keep you secure, and does a pretty good job at it, but remember, we are Android users. We can easily install 3rd-party apps and be at risk of intrusion. Some users also need more freedom, and they can get it.
Owning a rooted phone is certainly a plus to some of us, but it comes with serious risks. Root users have the ability to dig into the system and modify the code. This could make it very hard to combat spyware. Remember Avast! Mobile Security? They could install their phone tracking software straight into the system files, making their solution survive even factory data resets. They did it for your security, but who is to say hackers won’t do it for opposite reasons?
We would advise you not to root your phone unless you feel very confident about what you’re doing. You should also consider unrooting your phone if it already is.
Other root-related content:
- Benefits of rooting your Android phone or tablet
- Rooting your Android – Everything you need to know!
- 15 best root apps for Android
Try to find the app manually
Do you believe someone is spying on your phone? The first step is to try and manually find any suspicious files or applications. You can use any file manager to do this. You can also look in your app list.
Oh, and remember, these guys are trying to keep things on the down-low, so chances are the app won’t just tout its real name and logo. It could be disguised as something else, like a notepad app. Just go in there and see if there’s anything unusual, and if you don’t remember installing it (and it wasn’t a pre-bundled app), you would be wise to remove it.
Just wipe it!
Spyware is hard to find; it is also hard to clean. The only way to make sure it’s all gone is by wiping the phone clean and starting new again. I do this every single time I get a new device. I don’t care if the phone looks like it was already reset; I do it again.
Just perform a factory data reset, and the phone will be in the same state it was when it was turned on for the first time (at least software-wise). Do remember this will delete everything, though, so remember to make a good backup.
Use an anti-virus app
Many believe anti-virus apps are bogus, and while this can be true, that’s not always the case. It is very rare to get any malicious software in your phone if you stay within Google’s protective arms, but the truth is these apps can potentially help fight spying and tracking. Here’s a list of our favorite ones!
Keeping your phone protected
Your phone is a very personal item. Don’t let just anyone go in and roam around like it’s an open house. Keep your phone with you and protect it well against stranger’s eyes. You can do this by protecting the lock screen (password, pin, fingerprint, etc.).