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How to recognize a monitored phone
There are many symptoms that can lead you to suspect that your smartphone is being monitored; some are, however, so generic that they could lead us to think that we are under surveillance even when we are not, since the latest monitoring tools have been designed to be very quiet.
A cause for concern can be the appearance of unknown apps in the app list or within the menu Settings -> App. The presence of apps whose installation we do not remember must make us think of a monitored phone, especially if the apps in question are related to spying or parental control (for example the app Kroha).
Obviously, we pay attention to system apps or apps installed on the device after a firmware update: in this case, the appearance of new apps is not immediately a symptom of smartphones under control, since the new apps have arrived after an update.
Excessive use of background data
If our cellular data traffic drops quickly, even if we use our phones very little, we must suspect the presence of spy apps or surveillance apps. When we are away from home the only way to connect to the Internet is the cellular data network and surveillance apps generate significant data traffic (even 3 GB per day).
By keeping data traffic under control, we can see that excessive Giga consumption it is not associated with our activities (such as video streaming, online gaming, or downloading large files).
On this topic, we invite you to read our guides on how to check traffic thresholds and residual credit on Android e how to check data traffic consumption on iPhone.
Battery runs out quickly
This is a very difficult symptom to interpret, especially if we have a lot of heavy apps installed on the phone; but if we notice that the battery drains very quickly even with a few apps starting up the suspicion that the phone is under control is high, as there are no other compelling reasons for abnormal battery drain.
As soon as we notice that the phone drains faster than normal (less than half a day), we restart it, uninstall the heavier apps and monitor the battery consumption, so we can check if the problem was only temporary or due to some surveillance app active.
If the phone restarts for no apparent reason Let’s not underestimate the possibility that it is under surveillance: today’s phones hardly need a reboot, unless it has finished downloading an update.
A sudden reboot may be due to a problem with hardware (usually too high temperature) or to a problem with software (badly installed system apps, surveillance apps with administrative permissions, or others).
if it happens several times within a week or a month the smartphone is almost certainly under control or has a problem so serious that it needs to be replaced; in both cases we change phone.
App with administrative permissions
On Android phones, some apps can raise their permissions without having to bother root (in any case disabled by default on all phones): taking us on the path Privacy -> Management -> Special App Access -> Device Admin App we can find the list of apps that require special administrative permissions, necessary to perform certain operations.
If we notice the presence of an unknown app active on this screen, we are almost certainly under close surveillance, since these administrative apps can see, edit and record anything on the phone.
Random activation of microphone or camera
On recent versions of Android and iOS, the system clearly shows when the camera and microphone are active: An icon or a bright LED is shown in the upper right or left (depending on the phone in use).
If we notice that the microphone or camera is active when the screen is locked or when we are stationary on the home screen (no app in the foreground), the problem is very serious, as a surveillance app is collecting highly personal information, it is recording what we say and is filming what we do.
How to clean up a monitored phone
If your phone has even just one of the symptoms described above, we suggest you proceed immediately with the manual reclamation of the smartphone so as to interrupt active surveillance:
- We uninstall unknown apps or apps whose installation date we don’t remember.
- We only install apps from the Google Play Store, avoiding APK apps or alternative stores.
- We ask our parents if they have enabled a security app or a parental control app without our knowledge.
- We remove permissions for the camera, microphone, and other permissions sensitive to unknown apps.
- We disable administrative permissions on the appropriate Android screen.
- Let’s reset the smartphone to factory settings.
Restoring to factory settings is certainly the safest method to stop surveillance since it deletes any type of app or any type of unauthorized modification on our system but often it is possible to do it only if we have administrative permissions (for example many apps parental controls do not allow you to format the phone if we do not have the consent of the administrator).
To reset a phone under surveillance we can also read our guides on how to reset the Xiaomi phone come to make the stolen phone unusable or how factory reset iPhone and iPad by deleting data.
If we notice that the phone is behaving strangely, consuming too much battery or data traffic or there are apps that we do not know we are probably under close surveillance: let’s proceed quickly with the reclamation of the device to get back to using the phone without problems.
In most cases, surveillance systems are so difficult to remove or recognize that the only way to get the phone clean is to total system restore.
Still, on the surveillance of phones, we invite you to read our guides on how to check if someone has used my smartphone comes on how to understand if someone spies on us from the microphone (PC and smartphone).