Keyloggers are malicious software programs that record your keystrokes to steal passwords, banking details, and other private information. As cybercrime rises, keyloggers have become a major threat to smartphone users.
This comprehensive guide will teach you how to detect and remove keyloggers from Android and iPhone devices. You’ll learn keylogger warning signs, manual detection techniques, anti-keylogger apps, and prevention tips.
What is a Keylogger and How Does it Work?
A keylogger, also called a keystroke logger or keyboard capture software, records every keystroke typed on a device’s keyboard. It works in the background to log keys pressed into a file or sends data to a remote location.
Keyloggers capture everything typed into a phone, from text messages to emails to login credentials. The data is either stored locally on the device or transmitted to a hacker remotely.
They are designed to be completely stealthy and run without any visible clues. Most users won’t even realize their every keystroke is being tracked.
Keyloggers are used by cybercriminals to steal:
- Account passwords
- Credit card numbers
- Social security numbers
- Bank and financial account details
- Personal messages and photos
- Business proprietary data
This sensitive information is then used for identity theft, stealing money, or extortion.
Keylogger software can be installed through:
- Malicious apps downloaded from untrusted sources
- Phishing scams and texts containing infected links
- Public WiFi hotspots with man-in-the-middle attacks
- Physical access to an unlocked phone
Once installed, the keylogger runs silently in the background, logging everything without the user knowing.
5 Signs Your Phone May Have a Keylogger
While keyloggers try to stay hidden, there are some warning signs that can indicate your phone has been compromised:
1. Battery Draining Faster Than Usual
Keyloggers require constant background processing power to record keystrokes. This can put extra strain on your phone’s battery.
Noticeably faster battery drain, even when you aren’t actively using your phone, can indicate a keylogger sucking up processing resources.
2. Sluggish Performance
Similar to increased battery drain, keyloggers bog down your phone’s performance by overworking the processor.
Unusual lagging, freezing, and general sluggishness, especially when typing, can suggest a keylogging app is running in the background.
Extreme battery drain and maxed out processing can cause some phones to overheat. Excessive heat coming from your phone may signify a hidden keylogger.
However, overheating alone doesn’t guarantee a keylogger, as many apps and activities can warm up your phone when used heavily.
4. Strange Pop-ups and Texts
Sometimes keyloggers use advertising pop-ups or phishing texts to try spreading to more devices. Odd pop-up ads, banner ads, alerts, and suspicious text messages with strange links could mean your phone is already infected.
5. Typos When You Know You Typed It Right
Keyloggers record and send your typing in real-time. This can cause a slight input delay, which may result in more typos or missed characters than normal.
If you find yourself having to re-type words and passwords more often, it could indicate a keylogger interfering with your key presses.
However, increased typos alone aren’t definitive proof of a keylogger, as they can simply be user error. But combined with the other signs above, it warrants a closer look.
How to Manually Detect Keyloggers on iPhone and Android
Beyond behavioral signs, you can manually dig into your phone’s apps and processes to try finding any potential keyloggers.
Here are some steps to manually hunt for sneaky keylogger apps:
Scan Running Background Processes
Open your phone’s task manager or process manager app and look for any sketchy or unknown processes running in the background:
- Go to Settings > Battery > Battery Usage to see all processes
- Install a task manager app like OS Monitor or ATK
- Check all running apps and services
Look for odd-named processes you don’t recognize to spot any potential keylogger apps.
Check Installed Apps
Thoroughly check all apps installed on your phone, especially any you didn’t install yourself:
- Go to Settings > General > iPhone Storage
- Review the list of installed apps, their sizes, and last used dates
- Open the Play Store > My Apps & Games
- Go to Settings > Apps & Notifications
- Scan for suspicious apps you don’t remember downloading
Watch for apps with generic names, weird characters, or no icons/information.
Scan File System for Log Files
Keyloggers need to store captured keystroke data somewhere on the device, usually in log files.
You can search your phone’s files for any suspicious log files:
- Plug into a computer and explore files using iTunes
- Search all folders for .txt or .log files
- Use a file manager app like Explorer or Files by Google
- Search the root and app folders for hidden log files
Finding random log files with long strings of keys could indicate a keylogger’s work.
Factory Reset Your Phone
If you can’t pinpoint the keylogger manually, a foolproof option is to factory reset your phone. This will wipe all data and apps and remove any keylogger in the process:
- Go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings
- Tap Settings > System > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset)
Be sure to fully back up your phone before a factory reset, as you’ll lose everything.
Best Anti-Keylogger Apps
Manual detection takes time and tech skills. Anti-keylogger apps provide an easy shortcut to scan your phone and remove any monitoring apps lurking in the shadows.
Here are the top anti-keylogger tools:
Malwarebytes is one of the most powerful mobile malware scanners. It can deeply scan any app or process running on your phone.
The premium version actively protects against keyloggers and spyware in real-time. If a keylogger is detected, Malwarebytes blocks and quarantines it.
2. Lookout Security
Lookout Security uses advanced malware detection to find hidden keyloggers and spyware. It sends you real-time alerts if a sideloaded app contains malware traits.
The premium plan actively scans files, apps, processes, and network traffic to block any keystroke logging attempts.
3. Avast Mobile Security
Avast Mobile Security combines an antivirus engine with extra anti-hacking tools like an app locker, call blocker, VPN, and WiFi security scanner.
It actively protects against spyware and includes a password manager to guard your logins. The premium version adds extra features like app locking.
4. STOPzilla Mobile
STOPzilla Mobile offers complete mobile security coupled with identity protection tools. It watches for spyware and keyloggers and sends instant alerts when threats are identified.
Real-time scanning and firewall protection help block new keylogger installations. It also includes a secure web browser.
5. Norton Mobile Security
Norton Mobile Security provides malware protection powered by a global intelligence network. Smart scans proactively detect any potential keylogger apps or malware.
It also monitors network traffic for data exfiltration attempts, blocking any secret transmissions of your logged keystrokes.
Key Prevention Tips
Using anti-keylogger apps provides the best protection. But you can also be proactive and reduce your keylogger risk with these prevention measures:
- Only install apps from official app stores like the App Store and Google Play
- Avoid sideloading apps from unknown sources
- Don’t click suspicious links in emails or texts
- Use a VPN on public WiFi to encrypt traffic
- Set up two-factor authentication on important accounts
- Use strong unique passwords and a password manager
- Keep your phone OS and security apps up-to-date
- Set your phone to lock automatically after 1-2 minutes of inactivity
- Be cautious of physical access to your phone by others
- Regularly scan your phone with a trusted anti-malware app
Key Takeaways on Detecting and Removing Keyloggers:
- Keyloggers record all keyboard inputs to steal passwords, messages, and personal data
- Warning signs include increased battery drain, sluggish performance, overheating, strange pop-ups/texts, and excess typos
- Manually search background processes, installed apps, and file systems for anything suspicious
- Factory reset your phone if you can’t find the keylogger through manual searches
- Use a dedicated anti-keylogger security app for the best protection
- Practice good security habits like installing apps only from approved sources, using strong passwords, and limiting physical access to your device
Frequently Asked Questions
Can an iPhone get a keylogger?
Yes, iPhones are vulnerable to keyloggers just like Android phones. Keyloggers can be installed through shady apps sideloaded from outside the App Store. Jailbroken iPhones are especially high-risk.
How do I check for keyloggers on my Android?
Manually check background processes and installed apps for anything suspicious. Use a file manager to search for hidden log files. Run a malware scanner like Malwarebytes to automatically check for keyloggers.
Is a factory reset enough to remove a keylogger?
Yes, a full factory reset will wipe the keylogger along with all other data and apps on your phone. Be sure to back up your data first.
What’s the best free keylogger detector?
Lookout Security and Avast Mobile Security offer free keylogger detection along with basic malware scanning. Malwarebytes has a free scanning-only malware app as well.
Can antivirus detect keylogger?
Most premium antivirus apps like Norton, McAfee, and TotalAV include keylogger detection in their malware scanning capabilities. Free antivirus apps typically offer only basic malware protection.
What are the symptoms of keylogger detection?
Common signs of a keylogger include fast battery drain, sluggish performance, overheating, strange pop-ups/texts, and frequent typos when typing. But keyloggers are designed to be sneaky, so manual scanning or an anti-keylogger app offers the most reliable detection method.
Hopefully this guide gives you a thorough understanding of how to detect and terminate any keylogging apps or malware on your iPhone or Android device. Be vigilant in watching for any suspicious activity and leveraging anti-keylogger tools to keep your smartphone safe!