Modern monitoring systems allow keeping any smartphone — both Android and iPhone — under close surveillance without the user being able to notice anything. Often these monitoring systems are activated apparently by apps that might seem harmless to you or links well hidden within the emails or pages we visit daily — once active, they are very difficult to remove.
This article will explain how to recognize if your smartphone is being monitored or not, analyzing all symptoms that occur when a phone is under surveillance.
Many signs can lead you to suspect that your smartphone is being monitored — however, some are so generic that it could lead us to think we are being monitored even when we are not, as the latest monitoring tools have been designed to be very quiet.
Smartphone Is Being Monitored
1. Unknown apps
A cause for concern can be the appearance of unknown apps in the app list or the Settings -> Installed Apps menu. The presence of apps whose installation we do not remember or recognize might be risky.
If you find some apps like that, try to search them on the web as sometimes, they might be system apps, so force stopping it or uninstalling might lead to other problems on your phone so make sure that it’s not a system app. You should pay attention to system apps or apps installed on the device after a firmware update. After an update, the presence of new apps does not instantly indicate smartphones are under control in this scenario.
2. Excessive use of background data
If your mobile data depletes quickly, even if you use your phones very little, you must suspect the presence of spyware. When outside, the only way to connect to the internet is the mobile data network, and monitoring apps generate significant data traffic.
Keeping data traffic under proper observation can detect excessive data consumption.
3. The battery runs out quickly
This is a very difficult symptom to interpret, especially if you have many heavy apps installed on your phone. Still, suppose we notice that the battery runs out quickly, even with a few apps running. In that case, the suspicion that the phone is being monitored is high since there are no other valid reasons for abnormal battery consumption.
As soon as you notice that the phone battery drains faster than normal, try restarting it, uninstalling the heavier apps and then checking the battery consumption, whether the problem was only temporary or due to some active monitoring app.
4. Abnormal reboots
If the phone restarts for no apparent reason, let’s not underestimate the possibility that it is being monitored — today’s smartphones hardly need a restart unless it has finished downloading an update.
A sudden reboot can be due to a hardware problem (usually too high temperature) or a software problem (badly installed system apps, monitoring apps with administrative permissions or others).
If it happens numerous times a week or month, the smartphone is probably definitely under control or has a significant problem requiring replacement.
5. App with administrative permissions
On Android phones, some apps can raise their permissions without having to bother root — you can check by opening Settings->Privacy -> Management -> Special access to apps -> Device administration app. You can find the list of apps with special administrative permissions necessary to perform certain operations.
If you notice the presence of an unknown app active in this list, you are certainly being monitored, as these administrative apps can see, edit and record anything on the phone.
6. Random activation of microphone or camera
On recent Android and iOS, the system clearly shows when the camera and microphone are active — a small green circle icon is shown in the top right or left (depending on the phone in use).
If you notice that the microphone or camera is active when the screen is locked or on the home screen (no app in the foreground), the problem is very serious, as a monitoring app is, is recording what you say and is filming what you do.
How to clean up a monitored phone
If your phone has even one of the symptoms described above, try the solutions given below:
- Uninstall unknown apps or apps whose installation we don’t remember.
- Install apps from the Google Play Store, avoiding sideloading apps from other alternative stores or websites.
- If you are a child, inquire whether your parents have enabled a security or parental control app without your awareness.
- Disable permissions for the camera, microphone and other permissions sensitive to unknown apps.
- Disable administrative permissions for unknown apps.
- Reset the smartphone to factory settings.
Restoring to factory settings is certainly the safest method to stop monitoring since it deletes any app or unauthorized modification on our system. However, it is often possible to do it only if we still have the administrative permissions, or get it to your service centre or get a new phone (expensive solution).
If you notice that the phone behaves strangely, consumes too much battery or data traffic, or there are apps we do not know, then we are probably being monitored.
In most cases, monitoring systems are so difficult to remove or recognize that the only way to get the phone clean is by a full system reset.