How can you tell if your phone is tapped? Like it or not, most of us have grown used to our phones being spied upon—not at least by governments!
But other parties can tap into your smartphone. This includes hackers, your employer, an ex-partner, or even the press. They might be listening to your calls, reading and sending messages and emails, or altering information on your interface. But how do you know if your phone is tapped?
Here's how to tell if your cell phone is tapped.
1. Battery Problems
Before iOS and Android became popular, battery troubles were a sign of a phone tap. Hot batteries remain a concern when it comes to smartphones.
You're probably very familiar with an overheating battery anyway. You might have even visited a phone store and complained about the issue. In most cases, you'll simply be told it's standard for smartphones. Apple, for example, typically only worries if your device has got so hot, it's shut itself down.
Why does your smartphone get so hot? Using numerous apps and consuming media will make your handset warmer, though this shouldn't be enough to cause any damage.
However, a hot battery can also be a sign of cell phone tapping. Malicious software could be running in the background, allowing someone else to listen in.
And be suspicious if your phone simply isn't holding charge.
Monitor your phone: remember which apps you've used and how they affect your battery. If it consistently runs low on battery, despite you not using it that frequently, that's too strange to ignore. Older handsets don't hold the charge as well as newer models, so you need to eliminate other possibilities before looking for nefarious purposes.
Take note of other reasons your handset might be hot. Have you been sunbathing with it nearby? Have you been using lots of apps consecutively? Is a phone case locking heat in?
High temperatures and low power can nonetheless be indicative of malicious software. You then need to look out for other signs your phone is tapped.
2. Increased Mobile Data Usage
Keeping a close eye on your phone bills can save you a lot of cash. But it can also help you spot spyware.
Countless apps use huge amounts of data, especially if you don't connect to free public Wi-Fi. It's even worse if you let your kids use your device while away from home. Still, you should know roughly how much data you use each month.
If this amount increases dramatically, you need to narrow down exactly why that's happening. If you can't find the reason, it might be that a third party is intercepting your messages.
A malicious software uses your data allowance to send the information it's collected to an outside source. That means it's not solely relying on your home Wi-Fi: it'll be consuming data wherever you are.
3. Unwanted Ads and Apps
You can easily become overly familiar with your operating system, meaning you forget half the apps on there.
But it's imperative that you know exactly what's on your phone, especially the apps running in the background. If you've not installed them, they could be malicious.
Your phone doesn't have to be jailbroken to download fake apps: 17 fraudulent apps were uncovered on the App Store for iDevices, for instance. These were initially believed to contain Trojan malware but were actually adware that presented malicious ads to users.
But that adware could also be used to gather data and open a backdoor to hackers, inviting the installation of further fraudulent software. These ads could become intrusive to encourage victims to click on them even accidentally and generate revenue on a pay-per-click basis.
Don't forget that clicking on any links can further lead to more malware.
Those apps were removed by Apple, but could still be lurking on outdated systems and do present a solid example of malicious apps making it through official checks.
Malware can generate a lot of ad traffic, and thus increase data usage further.
4. General Performance Issues
The more data being used, the slower your device will be.
Malware can get root access to your smartphone or trick you into downloading a fake systems update for complete domination over your activities. Information about the victim could then be transmitted to hackers' external servers.
Think of all that information being transmitted to and from your device. This will slow down your device, and you might think it's simply that your handset is getting old…
But you'll suffer performance lags whatever method a cybercriminal uses to bug your phone.
Of course, real apps will take up power, but they shouldn't noticeably affect your device's reaction time.
You can check which apps are using the most RAM.
On iOS, you just need to go on Settings > General > iPhone Storage. On Android, click Settings > Apps and swipe over to Running. You'll probably see Photos and Music near the top of the list. From here, you can properly assess your app usage, and check for anything that doesn't ring true.
5. Strange Messages Can Indicate Phone Tapping
How do you know if your phone is tapped or being spied on? You might be ignoring the signs already!
What you might pass off as spam, a nuisance, or a wrong number can be an alert that something's wrong.
Suspicious SMS could include a seemingly randomized series of digits, characters, and symbols, which will immediately strike you as odd but perhaps not especially malicious.
Don't ignore suspicious messages.
The most likely cause of this is a fault in spyware used by cybercriminals. If it hasn't been installed properly, coded messages will appear in your inbox that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
These random data sets are instructions sent from the servers of a hacker to tamper with the fraudulent application. Alternatively, it could be the app trying to contact its creator.
Likewise, if any family or friends say you're sending them bizarre texts or emails, your phone may be compromised. This could mean your infected phone is trying to install malware on the devices of your loved ones.
Keep an eye out for any activity you don't recognize. Look at messaging chains, social media profiles, and check your sent folder and outbox. If you can't remember sending something, be suspicious.
6. Websites Look Different
Staying vigilant could save you from getting ripped off.
It's a scam we're all familiar with, but no one's infallible. We all forget the advice and make mistakes. If that mistake is clicking on a URL in a text or email, it can cost you big bucks.
You don't even have to be redirected to a fraudulent link through a message. If there's a malicious app on your phone, it could alter the appearance of websites you frequent.
The malware acts as a proxy, intercepting communications between you and the site you're trying to visit. It might be presenting a false page to you, or simply keeping track of anything you type. And no, it doesn't matter if you're on Private Browsing.
This really becomes a problem if you're using online banking—or indeed anything that requires personal details. That could be a password, financial details, or mere Personally Identifiable Information (PII), a major currency on the Dark Web.
You might not notice any differences. They could solely be minor changes, like pixelated logos. And if you do see something strange, it could just be the website experimenting with a new interface. Compare the mobile version with that displayed on a PC, bearing in mind responsive themes will look slightly different.
7. Use Android Forwarding Codes Like *#21#
This only works on phones running Android, but it's the perfect way to find out whether any of your data is being forwarded to a third party.
Just go to your keypad interface and type in either *#21*, *#67#, or *#62# then tap the dial icon. If one doesn't work, try another. They're applicable to different devices, but all three have the same function: they direct you to a screen that details Call Forwarding.
It will list Voice calls, Data, SMS, Packet, PAD, and more. Ideally, each one should say "Not forwarded" afterward.
If any instead say "Forwarded", your smartphone's probably been hacked.
So what can you do? Just type ##002# into your dial screen then press the dial symbol again. Your screen should now read "Erasure was successful", meaning you've severed the cyberattack. You can navigate away from this screen by tapping OK.
That's not the end of the matter, though: if your device has been tapped, it's obviously susceptible to attacks, so check out ways to increase Android security, including downloading an antivirus app.
How Can You Tell If Your Phone Is Tapped?
Don't be overly paranoid: most of us won't be victims to a phone tap. Nonetheless, it's worth brushing up on some basic security measures.
Reduce the risk of infection by only downloading from official app stores; Apple and Google screen apps and games before letting them become available to the masses and though they sometimes mess up, that's rare.