How to Tell if Your Phone Is Bugged

Sophia Taylor

By Sophia Taylor


Is your cell phone bugged? A practical guide to finding out if your phone is bugged.

For most people, the concept of phone bugging is something they only recognize from spy films. In their minds, it is a highly technical operation that requires specialist knowledge and equipment, and is about as likely to happen in their lives as James Bond abseiling down their chimneys.

While they would be right to conclude that bugging a cell phone in the sense of installing a physical device is unlikely to happen, covert listening in the form of hacking software running in the background is all too common.

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Who Might Bug My Phone? And Is It legal?

Your partner

There are various reasons why someone might want to keep tabs on your phone activity. What we see most often is that a controlling spouse or partner is using spyware or malicious software to assuage or feed their feelings of jealousy or need for control.

These pieces of software can utilize the inbuilt features and hardware on your phone—for example, the microphone, camera, and GPS location mapping. Buggingsoftware gives people access to not only your call history and text messages, but also the photos you take, your browser and social media activity, and your location at any given moment. They can even listen in on your phone conversations as they happen.

This type of intrusive monitoring can fall into a legal gray area if your partner or spouse has bought or pays for your phone. But if you own your device and pay the phone bill yourself, it is illegal for a third party to install bugging software onto it without your consent.

Your boss

Another potential spy might be your boss. Many employers would admit that they would love to have a window into their employees’ cell phones and online behaviors during work hours, but a few may go as far as installing software to make this a reality.

Monitoring software FlexiSpy has an employee monitoring feature that is ostensibly used to check for security breaches and misuse of company assets, but it can also be used to spy on your emails and phone calls, as well as any other activity on your phone or computer. If your phone has been issued to you by your workplace, this would be even easier for them to do. Check our list below for tell-tale signs of phone monitoring.

Your parents

Apps like mSpy are outwardly framed as parental control software and marketed toward protective parents and guardians. They can use the software to make sure their child isn’t accessing dangerous or inappropriate material online, and check in on their correspondence to watch out for cyberbullying. They can also track their child’s location, so if they are ever in any trouble they will be able to find them.

It is legal to use this kind of app if your child is under 18, and outwardly this might seem like a good thing. After all, everyone wants their children to be safe online. However, others would argue that this is a dangerous habit that oversteps someone’s privacy in a way that can erode trust.

Anyone with access to your phone

The fact of the matter is that anyone who has access to your mobile device could potentially install monitoring or bugging software on it. It is incredibly easy to install a spy app onto any Android or iOS device in a matter of minutes. For this reason, vigilance is key. If you suspect that your phone is bugged, however far-fetched you may think it sounds, it is important to check it out.

How Can You Tell If Your Phone Is Bugged?

Below is a list of questions to ask yourself that might indicate phone bugging. While none of these on their own are confirmation of a bugged phone, if you find yourself answering yes to the majority of these questions then it would be worth investigating further.

  1. Is your phone jailbroken or rooted? If you didn’t do this yourself, your phone is almost definitely hacked.
  2. Has your mobile data usage suddenly increased unexpectedly?
  3. Is your battery power decreasing very quickly and you don’t know why?
  4. Look through your apps carefully. Are there any that you don’t recognize, and do they have permission to access your location, camera, or microphone?
  5. Does your phone take longer to shut down?
  6. If you have an Android phone, is Google Play Protect disabled?
  7. If you have an iOS device, is iTunes Wi-Fi Sync enabled but you don’t recall enabling it?
  8. Have you received any strange messages recently? For example, from an ex or a boss who seems to know what you’re doing without you telling them?

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How to Identify a Bugged Cell Phone

If you answered yes to three or more of the questions above, you should scan your device to check for any malicious software. The easiest way to do this is by using an anti-spyware app like Certo to discover and remove threats.

If you have an Android device, install Certo Mobile Security to do a full scan of your device and find out if you have any malicious apps on your phone.

If you have an iOS device, the method is slightly different as ordinary apps can’t access the areas of the device where spyware typically hides. If you are interested in why Apple have made this choice you can read about it here.

However, you can still check your iPhone for malware using Certo AntiSpy. This unique tool gives iPhone users the ability to run a full scan of their device and to easily remove any threats found. Find out how Certo AntiSpy can help you combat phone bugging here.

How to identify a bugged phone for how to tell if your phone is bugged

How to Protect Yourself from Phone Bugging

After scanning your device, you may or may not have found something suspicious on your phone. Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself, your device, and your privacy and reduce the risk of phone bugging in the future.

Create complex passcodes

Most of the time physical access to your device is needed to bug a phone. This means that having a strong passcode that no one else knows is your first line of defense.

Enable two-factor authentication

You should also implement two-factor authentication wherever possible. This is where you’re required to input two pieces of information when you log into an account, rather than just one. It could be a passcode and a verification code sent to you by SMS, for example.

Update your phone regularly

Keeping your operating system up to date can also help secure your device. Every new update that your provider releases patches up holes and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.

Only install apps from official sources

Sometimes malware or viruses can infect your phone if you have unwittingly installed a fraudulent app. Only install apps from the official App Store for Apple or the Google Play Store for Android to keep your phone secure.

Don’t click on suspicious links

For the same reason, never click any links in unsolicited texts and emails. If you are unsure of the validity of an email or text, do not open it and block or report the sender.

Use Certo to protect your device

Certo is designed to increase your phone security and stop hackers in their tracks. Install Certo Mobile Security for Android or Certo AntiSpy for iPhone and get peace of mind that your personal information is safe.