Is There Spy Software on My Cell Phone – How to Detect if You are Being Monitored

So you think someone might be spying on your cell phone and you want to know how you can tell. Are there any tell tale signs that your phone is being Tapped, Bugged or Monitored by spy software?

I’ll go over a few things you can look out for and you don’t need to be a tech wizard to use them – just have a keen eye and an open mind. Look at my infographic as a quick reference down below!

Cell phone spy software programs are becoming more and more popular but for every one sold – there is a victim being monitored – often without their knowledge.

If you think you are a victim of spyware there are a few things you can do to protect yourself but first you need to find out if you are actually being spied on.

Learn What Spy Software Can Do

Do some homework and know what you are up against!

The truth is that most people don’t have a clue how powerful modern spy apps are and how available and easy to use they are. If you think someone is spying on your cell phone you need to get familiar with some of the main products available.

Take a look at my reviews of Flexispy , Mobistealth, mSpy and MobileSpy – you need to know what they are capable of and how they work. This

detect cell phone spy software

Someone Bugging You?

will help in the process of knowing what to look for. I’ve created a Complete Guide to Cell Phone Monitoring – it will help. You can also look at my side by side comparison of the software programs features.

Paranoia vs. Facts?

Here’s the problem – when you suspect that you are being monitored, you can become paranoid – it’s natural I guess – but it can cloud your judgment. Do you have good reasons to believe you are being monitored – or is your cell phone just playing up a bit?

I’m going to list a few signs which can be linked to spy software on your phone. It’s important to know that some of these signs can be caused by other things. Don’t look at one and think – that’s it I’m being spied on. Look at them all and rule out other possible causes.

If your phone displays several of these then you might have cause for concern.

Most people who suspect they are being spied on with cell phone spy software – are not!

Look for Changes in Phone Behavior

This is often your first hint that something is wrong. You are looking for sudden changes in your phone’s behavior. Things like:

Battery Drain – is your phone battery running down faster than normal? This used to be a really strong indicator. Spy apps used to really hog the phones battery and cause serious drain but the modern programs have largely addressed this issue. If someone is spying on you with older software, you might notice a sudden deterioration in battery life.

Other causes of this can be software apps you have installed yourself or just that your battery is losing its ability to hold a charge due to age.

Strange Background Noise – some software programs can listen to and record your calls. This works by adding them as “a conference call” – but this can lead to you being able to hear strange background noise. Of course we have all had this with a bad connection but if it is happening all the time you could have spy software on your phone.

Random Start or Shutdown – some spy software apps can cause the phone to light up as if it is in use or even to shut down by itself. Look for this happening on a regular basis not just a one off. Again the good programs will not exhibit this behavior.detecting spy software on cell phone

Receiving Strange SMS Texts – are you regularly getting odd looking text messages, usually with just numbers and symbols? Some programs use sms texts to issue commands to the target cell phone and if they are not configured properly you might see these messages coming through.

Higher Data Use – is your data usage suddenly getting high? Spy programs send logs of your phone use to online servers using your own data plan. Older apps used to be really heavy on data transfers but again the best spy software apps have changed how this is handled. The data transfers are now smaller and most people don’t have itemized data billing – so it’s getting harder to spot. If they are uploading large files like videos from your cell phone – data use could still be noticeable.

Check the Cell Phone Files

If you are a little more advanced it is sometimes possible to find spy software by looking inside the actual files on the phone. If you go to Settings – Applications – Manage Applications or Running Services, you may be able to spot suspicious looking files.

Good Spy programs usually disguise the file names so that they don’t stand out but sometimes they may contain terms like Spy, Monitor or Stealth etc.

Not everyone is comfortable getting inside the phones file system but if you are only looking for any confirmation you won’t do any damage to the phone. I wouldn’t recommend removing or deleting any files unless you really know what you are doing.

iPhone Jailbreak – the iPhone has one easy way to check for spy software. If someone wants to monitor your iPhone – they will need to Jailbreak it first – no Jailbreak = no spying!

Is Your Device Hacked – Infographic

Have a look at this quick reference guide to signs your cell phone may have spy apps installed – if you like it, share with a friend!

is your phone hacked infographic

Click to Enlarge

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What Now?

As the main spy app providers become more sophisticated it is becoming more difficult to detect spy software on your cell phone. They quickly recognized the more obvious signs and worked to remove these issues. Some of the poorer quality software programs are still quite easy for anyone to spot.

Remember not to focus on just one issue – look for several of these signs together. If you really do believe that someone is monitoring or bugging your cell phone – you need to take action.

To be a victim of regular spy software apps – they must get access to your cell phone or device to physically install the program. Remotely installed spy phone apps are scams and do not work as advertised. Keep your phone safe at all times!

The good news is that it is easy to remove spy software and also protect your phone going forward. You need to read my article – How to Remove Cell Phone Spy Software and Protect Your Phone.

For more information about cell phone spy software have a look at my Complete Guide – it will open your eyes to how it all works and what is possible. Most people are shocked by how powerful these programs can be.


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74 Responses to Is There Spy Software on My Cell Phone – How to Detect if You are Being Monitored

  1. Mzninj October 3, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    This was absolutely useless!

    • Susan Kennedy October 7, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      Thanks for your well prepared comment – glad you enjoyed it!

      • christine September 18, 2015 at 6:30 am #

        too funny!
        love it!

  2. Jon December 4, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    If an employer has installed maas360 on an iphone can they track your location? I do not care during working hours but it is none of there business when I am on my own time.

    • Susan Kennedy December 5, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

      I’m not familiar with that particular program – but if your company cell phone is being monitored they must tell you. They have a legal obligation to inform employees if their phone is monitored – if not you would have a strong case against them.

  3. Paranoid December 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    My very old htcs620 isn’t configured to the internet, so never use data. very old software never updated to connect to internet. no apps possible, am I safe to assume my mobile can’t be tapped? I’ve a huge court case pending. And yes it’s the coms company I worked for, for 27 years!!!

    • Susan Kennedy December 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      You are safe – no internet connection means you can’t be monitored by these software programs.

  4. Cell Question February 4, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    Hi Susan,

    I do think I have spyware placed on my phone. I have read on other sites (and this one) that I can do a factory reset, but if I use backup assistant to reinstate my contacts & apps, I will also backup the spyware and I will be in the same boat & upload the uneanted spyware…I have over 1,000 contacts and do not want to manually put those in!

    Is this true about the backup assistant if I do a factory reset?

    I also have thought about buying a new phone to get rid of it if the factory reset will not solve the problem- but I need backup assistant because I have over 1,000 contacts…. and again, will I backup the spyware then on the new device?

    Please advise!

    Thank you!!

    • Susan Kennedy February 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

      It is unlikely that the software will install again successfully from your backup but to be safe you should set your backups not to include apps – just contacts etc. Then reinstall your apps individually. It is a pain but definitely the safest way to go.

  5. Jan February 13, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    Hi Susan,

    Can someone spy on phone just through using my phone number from UK? I live in US and have had person in UK bring up several issues that were addressed in a private cell conversation I had with someone else in US. This person would have had no way of knowing what was said, but said very similar things as to what was said. I allso had someone try to hack into my Facebook account around same time.

    My phone does act up quite a bit (shuts off by itself, freezes, calls people on its own, ends internet sessions and wont let me go back inline unless I restart phone, doesnt save contacts properly, sometimes hides contacts, sometimes wont let me erase text messages) and battery life sometimes diminishes really fast, some days not so much. I am also concerned about this person being able to hear me in room when phone not in use. How can I find out if this is true, Protect myself and phone, and remove cell tap if there is one?

    • Susan Kennedy February 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

      It does all sound suspicious but remember they would have to have physical access to your phone. Your best case senario is that you have a cell phone with serious issues! I would try doing a factory reset to be safe and to see if it resolves your phones problems. A reset will remove any spy software (if it is there) but can also solve problems with your phone software.

  6. rachel March 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

    Are you aware of any spy apps that run through a wallpaper? My boyfriend just put a meaningless nature wallpaper on my phone, seems fishy. He has never in over a year done anything like it.

    • Susan Kennedy March 31, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      Very unikely it is anything suspicious, haven’t heard of programs using a wallpaper to hide spy software.

  7. Kelly April 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Hi, would like to know if all spy software requires a mandatory physical access to my phone? Will it be possible through remote connections as long my phone turns on data?

    • Susan Kennedy April 8, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

      Yes physical access is always required – many claim that you can install remotely by sending a text etc. They are scams and do not work as promised. Do not buy! This is probably the most common question I get asked and I cannot stress this enough. I get messages every week complaining about getting scammed by these products claiming no physical access to the target phone. No matter how much you want this to work … it will not.

  8. JamesR November 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Does Itunes sync detect the spy application? And therefore its existence?

    • Susan Kennedy November 6, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

      No, you can’t rely on Itunes sync to flag most of these programs – not that easy I’m afraid.

  9. Tish January 31, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    Can someone listen to you remotely by using your camera like they can on your computers? Sometimes I feel paranoid about that after I watched a story about hackers getting access remotely via computers. So, does this still hold true that in 2015 crooks need to have physical access to your phone? I’m sorry if you have to answer this again, just wanted to make sure since its a new year and new programs and the new crooks lol! Thank you for this article it has helped me a lot! 🙂

    • Susan Kennedy February 10, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

      For someone to monitor your cell phone in this way, they would need access to the phone and install software on to it. You are right to be cautious, technology moves fast and crooks do tend to find novel ways to do things!

  10. Roy February 27, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    Hi, thanks for the information posted. It brought a bit of common sense to my out of control panic at getting strange things happening on my phone. I now think it’s probably just apple capturing usage data. No jailbreak here so hopefully no nastys.

  11. liz April 2, 2015 at 7:55 am #

    Hi thanks for the help with the hints and to stop your mind over reacting
    But I have several signs that there could be something
    Am wondering would they have to be close to your location to monitor your phone

    • Susan Kennedy April 13, 2015 at 9:57 am #

      If there is monitoring software installed on the phone – it can be monitored from anywhere in the world – distance is no issue! Sorry if that alarms you.

  12. Michele May 5, 2015 at 3:19 am #

    My iPhone was being monitored my ex admitted to it. I changed phone providers and got a new phone in my own name and went with an Android this time. I did however keep my same phone number. Is it possible that this phone could be monitored just because I kept the same phone numbef?

    • Susan Kennedy May 14, 2015 at 9:50 am #

      No – the software would have been installed on the actual phone, not the SIM card or other storage. If you have changed the actual phone handset (and it hasn’t been accesed again) it will be safe. Set a strong password – consider using an app – and don’t let anyone have access to your phone to stay safe. Good luck.

  13. moe May 15, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    So let me get this straight. for someone to tamper monitor your phone they have to actually I have physical contact with your phone am i understanding all that correct

    • Susan Kennedy June 7, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

      Correct – as far as commercially available spy software is concerned. The only other method is if you have an iPhone and the other party has access to your Apple ID and password – mSpy can work in a limited way using this method.

      • Lisa June 18, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

        Is there a way to know if it has been put on through your apple account if someone does have access to your ID and password? If so, how can it be removed?

        • Susan Kennedy July 7, 2015 at 11:26 am #

          Monitoring through your Apple account doesn’t put any software on the phone/ device – it monitors the Apple backups. There is no way that I have heard of to know if this is happening. As a security measure you could change your account login details regularly – or change to a completely new account.

  14. Crago May 19, 2015 at 6:12 pm #

    I’m aware of one other sign of potential spyware and that is you’re phone getting very hot quickly after turning on and staying hot for the remainder of its time in use. This isnt a definite sign of spyware but additional programs running constantly will force the battery to use up more charge quickly and this will cause it to heat up a lot.

    • Susan Kennedy June 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

      Thanks for that – you are quite correct but as you say it is just another possible indicator. Thanks for your comment.

    • Curtis June 16, 2016 at 11:58 am #

      ….and often, SMS messages act very strangely, such as messages being duplicated without explanation, both sending and/our receiving, some spy apps turn on your GPS, so if you keep it off, and it frequently turns on by itself.

  15. Mmdam June 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    Thanks for the article ,
    If someone installed spyware would they be able to see your fb messages and whatsapp or just calls and regular messages

    • Susan Kennedy July 7, 2015 at 11:28 am #

      It depends on the program they use but yes – virtually everything can be monitored including Facebook messages and Whatsapp activity.

  16. Anthonyb June 25, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    Also what’s the difference between computers spyware and mobile can people listen in on your computer and track your location I’m paranoid about people listening I hate the thought of not having any privacy thank you

    • Susan Kennedy July 7, 2015 at 10:51 am #

      You are right to be concerned – PC monitoring software is also widely available – easy to install and hard to detect in many cases – plus it is powerful, allowing someone to monitor almost everything you do on the PC/Laptop.

  17. joseph b July 27, 2015 at 5:47 pm #

    Sounds like the eaiest way is to see if someone jailbroke your phone. How might one do that?

    • Susan Kennedy July 31, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

      It is a good indicator (a Jailbreak you didn’t perform) but not totally reliable as it is possible to hide the Jailbreak quite easily. The most obvious sign is the Cydia app which is usually installed with a JB. There are some apps to spot a JB plus updating the IOS will remove any unwanted JB plus the spy software.

  18. Prashanth November 28, 2015 at 11:38 am #

    After factory resetting, how do I confirm that my phone is not being spyed? Can someone track texts n calls on basic phones? (non smartphones)

    • Susan Kennedy December 5, 2015 at 5:20 am #

      Basic phones without internet access can’t be spied with this type of software. The factory reset works – it will remove everything (including your data)

  19. TaraV December 12, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    Is there any no tracking app in play store, so by installing it someone can’t monitor or track my phone?

    • Susan Kennedy February 8, 2016 at 3:52 am #

      It is not that simple I’m afraid – some apps claim to work this way but none work reliably. The programs continually change file names and running processes to stay ahead of the “no spy” programs. Anti spyware apps can only flag up what they are programmed to find. Using a combination of apps gives better chances of success – but the better programs are still often missed. Most people being monitored never know, by finding the software.

  20. Samantha December 18, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    Hey… I’m sorry you have to answer this again. Just noticed that many asked this earlier. but just want to be doubly sure coz we all know the pasce at which tech advances. 2016 is just breaking dawn and I just want to know the possibility of this remote installation myth creeping into reality.

    • Susan Kennedy December 21, 2015 at 2:10 am #

      No – both technically and legally, not going to happen with this type of software.

  21. The Riddler December 29, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

    Hey there Susan. Just wanted to know if I could take my phone somewhere like Geek Squad or another computer repair shop and have it scanned for spy software installed physically on my iPhone.

    Also, if I connect my phone to wifi in my home would I be able to detect if packets are being sent to spy software servers by using a packet sniffing program such as Wireshark?

    • Susan Kennedy January 6, 2016 at 11:09 am #

      Some phone shops may have someone able to identify spy software – it may be costly and you will need someone good to get a reliable answer. As for the packets – I haven’t heard of it being discovered this way. It sounds possible but the difficulty will be spotting what is regular data and what is being sent by the software – the packets are deliberately small and disguised.

  22. Chad January 7, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

    How can you find out if your phone has been jail broke by another person? Especially if they have hidden all the icons. My provider and apple weren’t any help what so ever. You say jailbreak and its like something secretive is goin on and they won’t help. Frustrating!

    • Susan Kennedy January 10, 2016 at 11:01 am #

      Yeah – they don’t like Jailbreaking – they lose money! If they have hidden the icons you can still find out – try to install any app for iPhone that is not in the Apple store – if it installs, the phone is Jailbroken. You need a Jailbreak to install any external app (not supplied through Apple).

  23. Dian January 20, 2016 at 12:01 pm #

    Hi I’m just wondering if someone can spy on my what’s app if they know someone from my mobile provider just from my phone number? I’m sure they never hold my phone to upload any spy apps but can they spy in a different way just by knowing my phone number?

    • Susan Kennedy February 6, 2016 at 10:49 am #

      You can’t spy on someones phone just by knowing the number – some apps claim this can work, they are scams. Imagine a world where this was possible – not going to happen. Law enforcement can do this through the network providers so it is technically possible – but you will not get this on the internet for sale.

  24. Bob H. March 2, 2016 at 2:38 am #

    Ms. Kennedy, u rock. It appears that u have answered every question over several months and I’ve not encountered any other techie who is so committed to helping people. I began this article with a firm certainty that I was being spied on and by the time I finished, I was sure that I was wrong. What a relief. One minor suggestion; even tho u wrote for all skill levels, I have no idea what a jailbreak is. Nicely done

    • Susan Kennedy March 5, 2016 at 8:31 am #

      Thank you! Have a read at my Jailbreaking guide – it explains a bit about the whole process.

  25. Jessica March 4, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

    I’m so sorry if I should know this — but if I back up on iTunes, restore new and then obtain my old data and apps from the back-up — won’t it just reload the spyware or whatever I’m trying to get rid of? Thank you!!

    • Susan Kennedy March 5, 2016 at 8:08 am #

      No – the software can not be re-installed in this way, you will be safe.

  26. Heidi H. April 2, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    My question is if a person has spyware on their smart phone can someone access their linked gmail account?

    • Susan Kennedy April 8, 2016 at 5:04 am #

      Yes they could see all gmail – sent and received.

  27. Kris May 4, 2016 at 1:59 am #

    Hi there Susan!
    I had a question as to how specific these tracking programs can get. For example if my phone was being tracked while I was in a mall, would it show the tracker my general location (the address of the mall) or my specific location?

    • Susan Kennedy May 12, 2016 at 11:45 am #

      They can be very accurate – but in a mall you would likely just see the general location – often the signal inside large buildings isn’t so strong.

  28. Catherine June 14, 2016 at 3:53 am #

    Hi susan,
    I was cleaning unused apps on my phone and noticed 5 or 6 different spy apps. Does that mean someone put them there or were they there when I bought the phone?

    • Susan Kennedy June 14, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

      They definitely would not be there when you bought the phone – so someone has put them there. If they just show up clearly in your apps list – they will not be very powerful and you should be able to just delete them. Good luck.

  29. Kim June 24, 2016 at 2:51 am #

    Can kik be monitored through installed spyware

    • Susan Kennedy July 5, 2016 at 9:05 am #

      Yes – KiK is covered by the main spy programs.

  30. Aruna July 20, 2016 at 6:52 pm #

    Hello Madam,
    Just I would like to know with the advent of the latest version of encrypted watsapp, can anyone still spy? What if the suspect has hired a professional hacker? Can thy unlock or still read the encrypted msgs?

    • Susan Kennedy July 22, 2016 at 11:04 am #

      The encryption of apps like WhatsApp will not stop you being monitored by modern spy apps. Remember these programs monitor from within the phone as it where, before any encryption takes place – they still record everything sent and received.

  31. Ryan July 25, 2016 at 8:07 am #

    Hi Susan.

    My company phone always makes the same noise when I’m calling a customer.. I’m struggling to find another sound to compare it to.
    It only makes this sound when ringing and I haven’t noticed anything else strange.

    It is a company phone and I return it every day before I finish. It’s not a big deal but I want to know if my calls are monitored..

    Any info will be appreciated.

    • Susan Kennedy August 4, 2016 at 11:01 am #

      It could just be the phone – hard to tell from your information. If it is a company phone and it is being monitored they have a legal obligation to tell you this in writing. Ask if you can. Good luck.

  32. JERRY NOBLE September 6, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    Hello first I want to thank you for taking the time to write this article I wanted to ask you if it is legal for an employer to secretly install monitoring software on your cell phone without your knowledge if your cell phone is not supplied by the company and has nothing to do with your job what I’m saying is if your cell phone is personal meaning you pay for the bill and meaning you do not use it at all for work next I want to ask is there any way to find out who installed the software and last if I do a factory reset will the software automatically be reinstalled or will I be safe I know they can install it remotely if they have your Google password because you can remotely install apps through Google once you’re logged in and can you please send my response via email you can post the response also I don’t mind thank you and have a great day

    • Susan Kennedy September 12, 2016 at 11:48 am #

      Totally not legal for an employer to install it on your personal phone (they can on a company owned device if they notify you first). Very difficult to identify and prove who installed the software, but a factory reset will remove it. This type of software can’t be installed remotely – using Google account or any other means. A reset and keep your phone secure going forward. Good luck.

  33. cj October 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    Can spyware turn your microphone on and listen to a conversation in your home?

    • Susan Kennedy November 1, 2016 at 3:04 pm #

      Yes this is possible with some programs. Scary I know!

  34. Sky October 28, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for your article. Anti Spy Mobile says there is no spyweare found on my Android phone. But, I have a nagging feeling that my phone is being tapped, because there is a consistent sniffling noise on the line whenever I talk to people. Are there any other ways to tap a phone without a spyware installed on it?

    • Susan Kennedy November 1, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

      I wouldn’t rely on Antispy mobile to flag all spy software. Most are very good at evading detection by anti virus and anti spy type software. They constantly change files and names to stay ahead of any detection.

  35. Jay Amrag December 13, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    Hi Susan,

    You’ve been replying to people’s comments for years now, and you’re providing a truly useful service! I want to say thank you, and that your time and, what I would call real public service, and someone needed to mention once, or twice.

    Thank you!


  36. Az March 4, 2017 at 4:34 am #

    Gday, i charged my galaxy s6 on a mates xbox1 recently, as soon as i plugged it in a strange downloading screen came up on my phone, was only plugged in for 10 seconds. Could that have been installing spyware? Since then these particular mates have been hinting that they’ve hacked me, is it a possibility?

    • Susan Kennedy March 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

      It is highly unlikely anything happened – especially given it was 10 seconds. I guess they are having a laugh at your expense. Thanks for your comment.

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