It’s something we see in movies all the time – police technicians hiding in the back of a van with giant headphones, tapes whirring, computers buzzing whilst they listen in to their target unwittingly confessing to the crime they committed.
Perhaps this is what has led us to wonder “can this happen to me?”. The truth is, yes. Someone can listen to your phone calls, if they have the right tools and they know how to use them – which when all is said and done, isn’t anywhere near as difficult as you might expect.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways somebody could be hacking you and be listening to phone calls through your device.
How could someone listen to my phone calls?
There are a few different tools that people can use to listen to your phone calls. Some tools are installed especially for the purpose of hacking your device, whereas others make use of vulnerabilities in existing apps in order to bypass security.
Spy apps, or spyware, are commercially available tools which are readily available for as little as $30. These apps are often very easy to install, requiring very little technical knowledge. They can:
- Allow access to many features of the device onto which they are installed. This Includes phone calls, but also text messages, emails, internet browsing activity and more.
- Hack both Android and iOS devices. iOS requires the device to be Jailbroken first. Android devices are more susceptible but the hacker may have to change a few simple settings in the security.
There are lots of these spy apps available on the market, but the two most available and commonly used apps are FlexiSpy and mSpy. Both of these apps have more or less the same function, as described above.
Zero Day Exploits
Zero Day Exploits happen when a hacker discovers a vulnerability in an app or device that the developers are not aware of. This means that the hacker can fully exploit the app to attack devices of the app users.
Although the information gained by a hacker differs depending on the circumstances, it’s quite common for Zero Day Exploits to give access to phone calls – such as the WhatsApp attack in 2019.
Because these hacks are initiated before the developers have chance to react, they are usually left scrambling to find a solution as quickly as possible to reduce the window of vulnerability.
That’s why keeping your phone and apps updated is so important.
Some misconceptions about phone call eavesdropping
It’s a common misconception that absolutely all methods of phone hacking allows someone to listen to your calls. In actual fact, it’s usually only the most intrusive spyware and exploits that can do this. Most other forms of hacking are focused on tracking GPS locations or collecting digital data, such as passwords and other account details. As such, it’s still important to know about them and protect against them. Here are some examples of hacks that you need to know about, but cannot listen to your calls:
- Family tracking apps. These widely available and accessible apps are typically used for tracking GPS locations and cannot listen in to phone calls.
- Spyware that targets backup data. Some hacks work by gaining access to a user’s backup data. Whilst this can be used to gain lots of other important and private data, it cannot be used for listening to phone calls.
It’s also a common misconception that a phone can be hacked or that someone can listen to your phone calls just by knowing your phone number. This is not possible and is completely false. You can read more information here.
How to tell if someone is listening to your phone calls
With all cell phone malware, there are certain signs to be wary of that can be indicative of suspicious activity.
- Increased data usage. A common symptom of a hacked phone is a dramatic increase in mobile data usage as the malware is constantly sending data from the phone to the hacker.
- Battery life decreasing. If your phone simply isn’t lasting as long, that’s a good sign that there are extra programmes running in the background of your device stealing it’s juice.
- Slow performance. We all wish our phones were faster, but if it’s not normal for your phone then it’s another sign that something is stealing processing power.
- Background noise. If you hear strange noises whilst you are on a phone call then that is a very good sign that the call is being interrupted in some way. This could include someone else recording or listening in on your call.
To be completely sure that your device is free from malware, especially if you notice strange behaviour as listed – you should perform a scan on your device using security scanning tools. iOS users can use our dedicated software to scan their Apple devices from their computer. Android users can simply download our free security scanning app that can be used directly on the phone itself.
Could someone be listening to my Landline phone calls?
It’s less likely these days, but it’s definitely still possible. If someone is tapping your landline and listening to your calls that way, here are some signs to look out for:
- Background noise. As with mobile devices, background noise whilst on a call is a sign that somebody else could be listening. Listen out for static, buzzing or clicks on the line.
- Interference around other electronic devices. If you are noticing interference with other electronic devices, such as your cell phone or even your TV – then that could be a strong sign that there is a tapping device in the building. These devices often use signals that can affect the normal operation of some electronic devices.
- Strange noises from the phone when not on a call. When you pick up the phone to make a call, before you dial any numbers, listen to the receiver and see if you can hear any unusual noises on the line other than the dial tone.
- Misplaced furniture. If you noticed that some furniture is in a different place to usual, it could be that someone has moved it in order to access the phone lines or wall socket.
- Landline box looks tampered with on the outside of the house. If you notice that the landline box on the outside of your home looks like somebody has tampered with it, this could be a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on. It may be that someone has forced the box open in order to fit a tapping device. Any engineers that need access to the box will have the appropriate tool to access the box.
- Strange utility trucks or workmen around the property. If you see utility trucks or workmen directly around your property, then it’s ok to ask them for credentials. If you are worried, call the company on the truck and ask them to check that they are legitimate. Sometimes a phone tapper could disguise themselves as a utility worker in order to gain access to a landline box without arousing suspicions from onlookers.
If you’re suspicious of a landline tap, then it’s possible to get a “tap detector” which will be able to give you a definite answer. These are easily purchased from a number of different websites and stores. It might be worth contacting a local home security company who may be able to help you get this setup.
Hopefully you find this article helpful. It’s not nice feeling suspicious that someone is listening to our private calls. Following the advice in this article can help put your mind at ease, or know for definite if someone is listening in.