In today’s digital world, our smartphones contain a treasure trove of personal and sensitive information. From private text messages to confidential business calls, our phones store data we may not want anyone else accessing. Unfortunately, with the proliferation of spyware and phone hacking tools, it’s entirely possible for someone to tap into your device remotely.
But how do you know if your phone has been compromised? This comprehensive guide will walk you through the telltale signs your smartphone may be tapped, plus tips to protect your privacy.
What Does It Mean For Your Phone To Be ‘Tapped’?
When we say your phone is “tapped”, it means someone has gained unauthorized access to your device in order to monitor communications, track your activity, or steal data.
There are a few ways this can happen:
- Spyware apps – Malicious apps secretly installed on your phone that record calls, monitor texts, track location, etc.
- Remote network hacking – Your phone is accessed remotely via weaknesses in your network or OS.
- Physical access hacking – Device tampering if someone can physically handle your phone.
Rest assured, the average phone owner will likely never deal with their device being tapped. But remote hacking tools are growing more sophisticated, so it pays to be prudent.
10 Signs Your Smartphone May Be Tapped
Many tapped phone warning signs mimic general performance issues, so you can’t always know for certain. But consistently experiencing multiple symptoms could signal something more sinister. Here are 10 signs to watch out for:
1. Strange background noises during calls
Listen closely during your phone conversations. Do you hear an odd humming, clicking, beeps or static in the background? Hearing unusual noises frequently when you’re on the line could mean your calls are being intercepted.
However, do keep in mind many common factors can also cause call audio issues:
- Poor cellular signal
- Defective headset
- Network congestion
- Crosstalk or interference
So only be concerned if you consistently notice unusual sounds every time you’re on a call.
2. Frequent dropped calls
Does it feel like your calls are being dropped or disconnected way more frequently than normal? That can be a major red flag.
Dropped calls alone aren’t enough to confirm your phone is tapped – network congestion often plays a role. But dramatically increased disconnects warrant a closer look, especially if it happens during all your calls.
3. Rapid battery drain
Spyware can run quietly in the background, constantly sending your data to external servers. This activity can cause your battery life to take a significant hit.
Does your phone’s battery seem to drain much faster than usual? Have you noticed it running hot when you aren’t actively using it? Rapid power drain can indicate hidden programs in the background.
Check your battery usage details to see which apps are using the most power. Uninstall anything that looks suspicious.
4. Sluggish performance
Phone hacked by spyware can introduce performance lags and general sluggishness. Apps may take longer to load or refresh. Web pages may be unresponsive or won’t fully load. Even simple functions like typing may lag.
Again, there are other possible explanations like too many apps running, an old battery, or outdated software. But a persistently laggy phone could mean you have hidden malware.
5. Unusual spikes in data usage
Spyware consumes mobile data in the background as it secretly sends your information to external servers.
Keep an eye on your data usage – check your phone and account settings often. Unexplained data spikes, especially during times you aren’t actively using your phone, may be an indicator of monitoring apps.
6. Strange pop-up ads
Increased adware pop-ups you can’t explain can be a sign of spyware. The malware generates revenue by forcing ads on you. These annoying ads may even mimic system warning messages from “virus detection” services urging you to download apps or call unfamiliar numbers.
Close pop-up windows immediately without engaging to prevent inadvertently installing more malware. Run scans to remove any adware already on your device.
7. Unfamiliar apps
Carefully check all the apps installed on your phone – on both your home screen and in your app settings menu. Make sure you recognize each one and knowingly downloaded it yourself.
See any apps you don’t remember getting? That may be spyware that was covertly installed without your knowledge. Delete right away.
8. Hot when not in use
As mentioned under battery drain, a hot phone when you aren’t actively using it can indicate potential malware running surreptitiously in the background. But also consider other high power usage like downloads happening or a graphics-intensive game still running in the background.
Only be concerned if the heat and power drain happen when your phone should be idle.
9. Failed shutdowns
Does your phone unexpectedly fail to shut down when you try to power it off? A phone hacked by spyware may be programmed not to turn off. This ensures the hacker maintains constant access.
Repeated shutdown failures could mean your device is compromised. Try a hard reset to troubleshoot.
10. Forgotten activities
This one requires you to be extra observant. Do you notice odd activities on your phone you can’t remember doing? Texts you didn’t send, emails you didn’t write, pictures you didn’t take? That may be spyware secretly using device functions.
It’s easy to forget our own digital footprints. But unexplainable actions that clearly weren’t you may be warning signs of tapping.
How to Check For Hidden Spyware
If you suspect your phone has spyware, here are some options to help confirm and identify potential monitoring apps:
- Run security scans – Download a trusted security app like Malwarebytes or Lookout to perform deep virus and malware scans.
- Check app permissions – Review what your apps have access to under your phone’s privacy settings to isolate any suspicious permissions.
- Try spyware detector apps – Consider apps like Spyware Scanner that are specifically designed to flag hidden spy programs.
- Factory reset – Wiping your device restores it to a clean state removing any spyware (but also erases your data).
- Seek professional help – Phone security experts have tools to definitively check for spyware you can’t remove on your own.
Protecting Your Smartphone From Tapping
Now that you know what to watch for, here are 11 powerful ways you can better secure your mobile device from hacking:
1. Update your device regularly
Phone makers constantly release security patches to fix vulnerabilities. Running the latest OS version protects you from many hacking methods.
2. Install from only trusted sources
Stick to the official app stores. Sideloading from third-party sources dramatically raises your malware risk.
3. Review app permissions
Don’t blindly hit “accept” on permission pop-ups. Make sure each request makes sense for that particular app.
4. Delete suspicious apps
If an app looks fishy or requests strange permissions, get rid of it. Don’t take risks.
5. Disable lockscreen notifications
Don’t let private message details display on your lockscreen where anyone can view them. Turn off previews.
6. Log out of accounts when done
Constantly staying logged into accounts gives hackers opportunities. Log out when you’re finished using an app.
7. Encrypt your device
Encryption protects your data if your phone falls into the wrong hands. Use screen lock passcodes and fingerprint login.
8. Enable remote wipe
Apps like Find My iPhone allow you to remotely wipe your device if it’s ever lost or stolen.
9. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks
Public hotspots are rife with risks. Stick to cellular data or use a VPN on Wi-Fi when out and about.
10. Install a VPN
A VPN encrypts all network traffic on your phone keeping your online activities more private.
11. Use burner numbers
Services like Google Voice let you generate temporary “burner” numbers to give out instead of your real digits. Helpful when dealing with unfamiliar parties.
Phone Tapped? Here’s What To Do Next
Think your phone may be compromised based on the symptoms above? Don’t panic, but act fast. Here are the smartest next steps to take if you confirm your smartphone is tapped:
- Disable phone – Enter airplane mode immediately to cut the hacker’s network access while you investigate.
- Run security scans – Install a trusted antivirus app and perform full scans to uncover any malware or spyware that was installed.
- Backup data – Backup your personal data before attempting removal of any spyware, in case a factory reset ends up being necessary.
- Remove suspicious apps – Delete any apps that look questionable or you can’t confidently identify. Check app permissions also.
- Reset phone – If you can’t isolate the spyware source, a full factory reset to wipe your device may be your best bet.
- Change passwords – Make sure to change all passwords for any accounts logged into your device, in case the hacker accessed them. Enable two-factor authentication also.
- Secure accounts – Review all accounts, especially financial, to check for any unusual activity indicating your data was accessed.
- Contact authorities – If you have strong reason to believe you’re the victim of a serious hacking attempt, contact law enforcement and your mobile carrier to investigate.
FAQs: Your Phone Security Concerns Answered
Can someone remotely tap my phone’s camera?
While extremely unlikely, there are hacking tools that can remotely access both the camera and microphone on smartphones. That’s why it’s good practice to place a piece of tape over your camera when you aren’t using it.
What should I do if I think my phone is tapped?
If you suspect your phone is tapped, immediately disable cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, run a malware scan, check app permissions, remove anything suspicious, and do a factory reset if necessary. Also change account passwords tapped by your phone.
When should I contact law enforcement about a tapped phone?
Unless you have strong evidence of serious criminal activity, contacting law enforcement likely isn’t necessary in most cases. Simply removing any malware and securing your device is sufficient. But if you have reason to believe you’re the target of a dangerous hacker, do contact the authorities.
How can I check my phone for government tapping?
There’s no definite way to check for government tapping. But be on the lookout for unusual activity consistent with spyware surveillance. If you have reason to think you’re being improperly targeted, legal counsel is advisable before contacting government agencies.
What are signs of a tapped landline phone?
Strange background noises, frequent hang-ups, difficulty dialing numbers, and inconsistent call quality can all signify a landline tap. But take power outages and line maintenance into account, which can cause similar issues.
Can I prevent my phone from being tapped?
While no phone is 100% immune from hacking, there are many precautions you can take to minimize your risk, like updating your OS regularly, avoiding sideloading, sticking to mainstream apps, encrypting your device, using strong passcodes, installing antivirus software, and more.
Will a factory reset remove all spyware from my phone?
Resetting your device to factory default settings will wipe out any spyware or malware on the OS level. However, some sophisticated spy tools can install in the firmware and survive a reset. If issues persist after you reset, your phone likely needs professional service.
Is phone tapping illegal?
In most countries, yes – tapping a phone without proper authorization is illegal. There are a few exceptions like parents monitoring minor children, but you otherwise need permission to intercept someone’s communications legally.
Key Takeaways: Is Your Phone Tapped?
- Unusual sounds on calls, performance issues, high data usage and other anomalies may indicate spyware or a phone tap.
- Security apps, reviewing permissions, and checking app downloads can help uncover hidden monitoring software on your device.
- Keep your OS and apps updated, use strong passcodes, install antivirus software, encrypt your phone, and leverage remote wipe to better protect your smartphone.
- If you confirm your phone is tapped, disable connectivity immediately, remove suspicious apps, run scans to isolate the threat, and perform a full factory reset if necessary.
- Phone tapping without permission is generally illegal in most jurisdictions except specific circumstances like parental monitoring.
- While exponentially rare, remotely hacking a smartphone to covertly monitor activity is unfortunately possible with access to advanced tools.
- There are many prudent habits smartphone owners can adopt to minimize the likelihood of device tapping or data compromise from occurring.
By staying vigilant for telltale warning signs and utilizing the right protective measures, you can keep your mobile phone secured and your private data safe from unlawful tapping.