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How to Figure Out Who Hacked Your Phone

by on June 16, 2020
in Privacy, Phones and Mobile, Cell Phones, Mobile Apps, Android Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Tips & How-Tos :: 245 comments

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For most of us, our phones are the center of our daily lives, and as a result, they contain a treasure trove of personal information, from banking details to messaging and email accounts. This sensitive data can be pretty enticing to a range of the nefarious, from cybercriminals to someone you may even know.

Phone hacking can involve the unknowing download of spyware that relays information on your activity – such as logging keystrokes to scrape passwords; spy apps downloaded by someone with access to your device; or other malware that exploits your phone, for example by using its internet bandwidth in a botnet, as occurred with malware that infected nearly 20 million Android devices.

“The most common way that smartphones can be hacked is to infect the device with malware,” says Victor Chebyshev, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab. This malware can arrive on the device buried inside apps downloaded by the user – and the likelihood of a malicious app rises when downloading away from the official app stores, which police their content. 

While iPhones aren’t immune to hacking, Apple’s strict vetting policy means the incidence of bad apps targeting iPhones (at least non-jailbroken ones) is lower than for Android phones. “Android devices are more susceptible to these kinds of attacks because they have the option to install applications from third parties,” says Chebyshev.

9 steps to figuring out who hacked your phone

A sluggish phone or fast-draining battery are common symptoms of a compromised phone – but they can also indicate your device needs a spring clean to spruce up performance or improve its battery life. Another red flag is if your data usage has gone through the roof – this could indicate a dodgy app is sending data back to its mothership.

“Whether a user can determine who is responsible for a compromised phone depends on what kind of threat was on the device,” says Chebyshev.

According to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigation, 86% of cyberattacks are motivated by monetary gain – for example, through selling someone’s stolen credentials on the dark web, gaining access to financial accounts, or hacking sensitive data and holding the victim to ransom. In these cases, hackers usually rely on malware that remotely exploits vulnerabilities in apps or operating systems to steal information (or in the case of phishing malware, trick people into inputting their critical data).

However, somebody known to you who wants to monitor your movements – whether that’s a disgruntled ex or suspicious parent – and who has physical access to your device might also be able to install a spy app that acts like malicious software, tracking your location, photos, messages and calls.  

To narrow down the field of suspects, you can try to determine exactly how your phone is being compromised.

1. Check your phone bill

Are you being charged for premium-rate texts you never sent – or texts you never signed up for? You’ve probably been infected by malware that forces your phone to send or receive texts that generate revenue for cybercriminals. This common form of mobile malware is believed to be the first type found targeting Android, back in 2010, and today plenty of it is still floating around.

If you’re receiving premium-rate text messages, try texting STOP to the number. If this doesn’t work, you’ll have to contact your cell carrier who should be able to block the number.

If your phone is sending the texts, you may be able to fix it by running a security app such as Bitdefender or McAfee to find and remove malware (on Android only; security apps for iOS don’t have this feature). Also, try deleting any third-party messaging apps and any other apps you installed just before the phone started sending the texts.

2. Go through your apps list

If there are any apps you don’t remember downloading, look them up online to see if any of them have been reviewed negatively for malware or other suspicious activity. In this case, the apps will have been compromised by a hacker who likely isn’t targeting you personally but is distributing malware with the aim of scraping as much data as possible. The BankBot malware, for instance, is a trojan that has infected hundreds of Android apps to display a phishing screen to steal users’ banking credentials.

“If it was a regular trojan [malware coded within another app] the user will not be able to attribute who was responsible for the attack,” says Chebyshev. “If it was commercial spyware, it’s sometimes possible to figure out the responsible person.”

3. Look up your flashlight and battery-saver apps

Got a phone full of apps and can’t remember for sure which you downloaded? Some categories of apps have attracted more than their fair share of malicious actors – several flashlight apps on Google Play were infected with malware that tried to scrape users’ financial info, while one should be wary of battery-saver apps as they have often been used for malware, says Josh Galindo, director of training at phone repair service uBreakiFix

If you have these types of apps, check online for any negative reviews. You can also try deleting them to see if this affects your phone performance. “If you install an app and the device performance decreases, that’s an indicator,” says Galindo. “If you uninstall the app and your device begins working properly again, this means that the app is likely contaminated with malware and you should avoid downloading it in the future.”

4. Double-check your favorite popular games  

Downloaded a new super-popular game recently? Ensure it operates like it’s meant to – and validate that by looking up reviews online – otherwise it may be a scam version, potentially ridden with cryptojacking malware.

Cryptojacking trojans mine cryptocurrency unbeknownst to users, and their prevalence has risen on smartphones that when infected in thousands, can deliver attackers a high overall processing power. The idea is that, if a cryptojacker hacks other devices, they can get paid for mining without having to use their own resources (or pay the electricity bill).

On mobile, cryptojacking malware tends to hide inside innocent-looking apps such as fake versions of popular games. If your phone slows down, heats up and its battery is dying long before the end of the day – and you’ve tried to improve your battery life– it could be a sign that a malicious app like a cryptojacking trojan is hogging all the juice.

They’re mostly prevalent on Android – and if you’ve downloaded from non-official app marketplaces, the risk is higher.

5. Scroll through your call list

Done all of the above and still convinced that someone somewhere has your personal data, siphoned from your smartphone? Apps aren’t the only way a phone can be infected by malware. Have you picked up any random calls lately? “Callers offering a free cruise or claiming that you won a sweepstakes are likely scam efforts to hack your information or record your voice,” says Galindo.

6. Did you click that link?

If you recently clicked on a link on a text message or an unexpected pop-up, you may have inadvertently fallen prey to phishing. Phishing often preys on panic or high emotion – as in the coronavirus-related scam texts claiming that receivers had been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms, and exhorting them to click for more information.  

It’s often impossible to divine who is behind such scams, although you can report any phishing texts to your cell carrier and block these numbers.

7. Consider the last time you used public WiFi

According to Kaspersky Lab, one in four hotspots are unsecured, and even the ones that are password-protected could potentially be set up by someone with malicious intent. On top of that, the protocol (WPA2 or WPA3) that encrypts traffic between devices and routers can itself be vulnerable – as in the serious WPA2 flaw uncovered by researchers in 2017 that would have allowed certain traffic to be intercepted.

If your phone isn’t protected by a VPN and you logged into an unsecured public WiFi hotspot, it’s possible someone could have been spying on the connection – and scraped your sensitive information if you logged into your email or bought something online.

8. Is your iCloud safe?

iPhone user? A cracked iCloud login can allow someone to not only access your photos, but also make use of semi-legal spy software to remotely monitor your device’s calls, messages, contacts and location.

Luckily, enabling two-factor authentication for your Apple ID drastically reduces this risk, because if someone tries to sign into your account from a new device, you’ll receive an approval request and sign-in code on your iPhone (or other iOS/Mac devices linked to your Apple ID).

(To enable two-factor authentication, for iOS 10.3 and newer: Settings > [your name] > Password & Security. For iOS 10.2 or older: Settings > iCloud > Apple ID > Password & Security.) 

However, a weak or reused password without two-factor authentication can put your account – and phone – at risk.

Here’s how it works: Many people use the same email address in their Apple ID as the login for dozens of online accounts. If this email address is revealed in a data breach, then hackers – who may purchase or find these login details at data dump websites – have access to your Apple ID.

Couple that with a weak password and your iCloud account can be breached by attackers who use cracking software to guess hundreds of hacked or common passwords in order to breach accounts.

Unfortunately, the same goes for an email and password combo that can be guessed or found out by someone you know who’d want to spy on you – especially if they can access your iPhone to use the two-factor code.

9. Run a security scan 

Since most malware is designed to evade detection, you may not discover much on your own. Spyware apps – or stalkerware – is one category of particularly insidious apps designed purely to monitor a victim’s activity (rather than for any financial gain).

Security apps, particularly for Android, can help determine if your phone contains such a malicious app, as well as help fend off future cyber attacks by, for example, preventing you from visiting malicious webpages.

Android:  Commercial spyware is unfortunately all too easy to find online. Such spy apps have system-level access to extremely detailed information about your device activity such as the messages you write, photos you take and GPS location – and what’s more, these apps are hidden from view.

They also need to be downloaded physically to your device, which means if they’re on your device it was done by someone with access to your device (and your PIN). Chances are, you can figure who in your life would want to monitor your phone. 

To find out if you have such apps on your Android phone, download a security app such as Bitdefender or McAfee, which will flag any malicious programs. You can also head to Settings > Security > Device administration and check if “Unknown sources” for app installations is enabled (and you didn’t do it) – this allows apps from non-official app stores, on which there’s likely to be far more stalkerware.

iPhone: Spy apps on a non-jailbroken iPhone are far less prevalent since such software – which tampers with system-level functions - doesn’t make it onto the App Store. (However, they do exist and work via someone knowing your iCloud login and password.)

If your iPhone is jailbroken, that opens it up to potentially malicious apps that haven’t been vetted by the App Store, including spy apps downloaded without your knowledge.

Security apps such as Lookout and Sophos will alert you if your iPhone has been jailbroken – so if you’re alerted of this but haven’t done it yourself, that can be a red flag.

However, whether security software – for Android or iOS – can find spy apps will depend on how sophisticated or new the spy app is since security software scans for malware that’s already known. (That’s why it’s crucial to download updates to security software as soon as available since updates will incorporate new instances of discovered malware.)

3 steps to take if your phone has been hacked

1. Delete any apps or messages that may be malicious

If deleting them fixes any performance issues, great. Even if not, it’s a good idea to clear your device of apps that may have been flagged from that security scan.

You can also try shutting down apps one by one, as soon as your phone starts to slow down or heat up. If shutting down a particular app seems to return things to normal, that app may be malicious – or at the very least, not play too well with your device. 

2. Do a factory reset

If after deleting the suspicious app(s) your phone is still behaving strangely, this nuclear option is a quick way of clearing your device of malicious – or sluggish – software left behind.

Android: Settings > System > (Advanced) > Reset options > Erase all data

iPhone: Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings

3. Check if your information is out there

Unfortunately, many hacks and malware present few to no symptoms and often the only time people are aware of a breach is when their digital services are hacked, or, worse, they’re the victims of identity fraud, where hackers have used their stolen information to open accounts or lines of credit. 

There are a few tools you can use to check if any of your information has already been compromised. Have I Been Pwned? is a website run by security developer and Microsoft Regional Director Troy Hunt that checks if email addresses have been exposed in breaches of popular apps and services.  

Security apps including Bitdefender (Android) and Lookout (iOS) can also alert you if apps and services you use have been breached, putting your personal information at risk.

Depending on the scale of the data that has been exposed, you may want to set up a fraud alert at the major credit agencies, which will require any potential creditors to request additional verification of your identity. 

Keeping your smartphone safe

If you find that your logins – particularly passwords – are floating around online, the first thing to do is to change your passwords. The best way to do that is to use a password manager which can automatically generate and save complex, unique passwords for each of your accounts. Check out our top-rated picks here. We like the Dashlane password manager, whose Premium version (from $4.99/month) also scans the Dark Web for instances of your emails or logins being posted for sale.           

And to reduce the risk of future phone hacks, always observe general cybersecurity hygiene:

  • Think twice before clicking links in SMSes, other messages and emails
  • Review app permissions to minimize the risk of a malicious app download.
  • Enable two-factor authentication for every online account possible – and especially primary emails and logins like your Apple ID.
  • Download security updates for your phone when available to patch vulnerabilities that could otherwise be exploited.
  • Protect your device with a PIN or biometric authentication.

Updated on 6/16/2020 with new tips and recommendations

[Image credit: phone hacker concept via BigStockPhoto]

Natasha Stokes has been a technology writer for more than 7 years covering consumer tech issues, digital privacy and cybersecurity. As the features editor at TOP10VPN, she covered online censorship and surveillance that impact the lives of people around the world. Her work has also appeared on BBC Worldwide, CNN, Time and Travel+Leisure.

Discussion loading

I know I have been hacked!

From Ashley on February 24, 2021 :: 8:34 am

Please if there is anyone that can help me prove to the police that it is this man who is evil. Please if you have a heart and a good soul he has taught me the antichrist can look like your best friend. I’m begging. Thanks


I have been hacked he

From Ailes on March 04, 2021 :: 5:56 pm

I have been hacked he phone me tell me that he wants money or he will post nude Pic of me across the world what to do guys any help


Sounds like a scam

From Josh Kirschner on March 05, 2021 :: 5:44 pm

You didn’t provide enough detail about what actually happened, but it sounds a lot like the porn email scam we wrote about here: With that scam, the person doesn’t have any nude pics and your device wasn’t compromised, the scammer is just lying to you to try to trick you into paying.


Need Help

From Hacked CPT SA on March 08, 2021 :: 1:00 am

Hi there, my phone got hacked. My Gmail was stripped and all my backed up photossnd vids of 15 years and documents all gone. My phoje started to act suor slow at random and my flashlight would go on at random during thr night somtimes daytime too. I would wske up and check my phone and it would be on some site called soaptoday. Just reading whats happening is scary.
I definately need help.



Do you perhaps know of

From O-o on September 01, 2021 :: 7:44 pm

Do you perhaps know of one by the name Michael James minie.


Its funny how alot of those emails so are bullshit n try to cover your own ass ...yeah i do know

From Gerrod Chambers on April 03, 2021 :: 10:23 pm

All that patenal out the window


I have been hacked

From Jay on April 11, 2021 :: 1:02 am

My phone, internet and emails getting hacked repeatedly
I changed my phone   Factory reset   Passwod reset but still same issue.
I get popups, spam calls and sms and mails.
My whats app, appleid are getting hacked too
Even my tv is showing content not relevent to me
Please help me

Thank you


6 phones 6 email 6

From Tim on April 16, 2021 :: 5:37 am

6 phones 6 email 6 different address phones are completely taken over.. passwords settings the works .  Is it mostly my wife .. had Norton and PC matic deleted also


Also get locked out of

From Tim on April 16, 2021 :: 5:43 am

Also get locked out of factory reset s


Sorry also no Ransom no

From Tim on April 16, 2021 :: 5:48 am

Sorry also no Ransom no cryptic messages . Just take over and shut down . This phone is next


Phone huked, emails, facebook

From Lala on May 03, 2021 :: 6:21 pm

Hi guy’s. Please If any one can help or any info. sorry to say but .. previous domestick violence survivor. All away sense so that I did get away. No. Wrong. Do not meter haw many times I changed my phones, numbers, SIM just make it. Some one is in my phone. I know it, I fill it. Emails was huked. Change the passwords, did all this staff. Just name it. I even know who does it. But.. can’t prove it. Law does nothing. Not enaff evidence. Hmm. I open my own business. All off a sudden do not receive none one call any more. Going on 5 years off that.2 disaibele kids.child Suport not pay at all. They’re walk away with all. Do not meter who I say about it every one looks at me like I’m crasy. No one believes. Haw and what can I do. It’s been so long that I do starting fill like crasy. I swear its like in a movie. Would never say that it’s ever can happen to me. Any one, any thing, any help. Please. [personal information removed].text.Thanks



From Shivani on May 15, 2021 :: 10:04 am

I think someone is watching me…I think there is some hacking device or apps or something else in my mobile..I dont know what is that please help me to come out of that…Please secured my mobile


Please help!

From Andrea on May 20, 2021 :: 12:57 pm

I stumbled into this article and I have to make this quick since I may get booted out or frozen but I’m going through the same thing as many of you are if anyone can get back to me it’s been over a year now and I know who they are and have some evidence to support it as well as an open police report and Ic3 form from the FBI but no one will do anything! My life is controlled and restricted by “developers students” that work with Microsoft teams so they have unlimited access to my devices I’ve gone thru 12 phones and 15 numbers new accounts and I need to get them out of my shit! ASAP.


I just noticed when texting

From Janet Iddings on May 20, 2021 :: 10:20 pm

I just noticed when texting on my phone messages, when I send there is in small letters
LuobTiX’s Boneyard

Is this a hack or?? What and who is this? What do I do?


It sounds like something in your signature settings

From Josh Kirschner on May 21, 2021 :: 9:12 am

This sounds like something in your text messaging signature settings, but current stock Android doesn’t offer a signature option. What device, operating system and messaging app are you using where you’re seeing this happen?


i have been hacked and can't log into my google account

From Cherry on May 27, 2021 :: 10:46 pm

i have been trying for a week and i don’t know what else to do.. they changed options for 2factor authentication i do not know the new password and i have photos etc that are priceless to me… can anyone help


phone hacking

From Mary Growth on June 18, 2021 :: 1:26 pm

Working with Andrew is something I’ll never forget because I wasn’t really expecting it to work. I was only testing him and he delivered more than I expected, he really amazed me and till now I still have access to the phone. Contact him on gmail andrewthoma cyberhelp @gm ail. com and you can also contact him on whatsapp +14696097628 or call and text him on +14696097628. for any phone hacking


My LG Stylo 5 has been hacked using Google workspace

From Jamison G on June 18, 2021 :: 7:21 pm

I am no longer the admin of my phone - I cannot do a factory reset. I cannot access the source code, cannot disable or uninstall suspicious apps. I found an app which reads the code from everything on my phone and discovered more than one PREINSTALLED APP with tracking/additional permissions orders written into it. I found audio files that were snippets of recorded conversations, audio msg, and phone conversations which I was unaware existed. Some code is for removing my permissions and hiding the fact from me. Making certain toggles - in the permissions manager, for instance- invisible or unable to affect. I uninstalled my chrome update because I read about an issue with the most recent one. That’s when I realized that I had been using g-suite apps .... The icons are different. What prompted me to investigate initially was my stumbling onto a website with very strangely formed syntax…. Like double talk - coded language that was clearly meant for a very select group and worded innocuously for the general public…. I swear, I thought I was dreaming because I tapped something that seemed like it was a link and it opened up a hidden menu… I used my husband’s Gmail credentials and FML it logged me into something I couldn’t emotionally handle and I closed the tab. It was a dashboard to my fucking life. I almost passed out. Now, for nearly a month, I’ve been spiralling into depression and a quiet desolation as I dig into everything I am permitted to access… Its sad to think that after eight years, this is our life… I literally have had zero privacy for at least the entirety of this year. Possibly since I got this phone in January 2020. Anyway, sorry. I have had all the classic signs of my phone being monitored: heat, bad battery, no storage available, glitchy screen, weird text, missed calls with no log and vice versa. I’m guessing they exploited the Qualcomm back door thing as well as the chrome, in addition to having some paid bullshit….
IDK where I was going b4 the rant. Can anyone help? Should I bring the phone and the copies of the code I have from the rewritten apps to the FBI or something?
This is ruining my life and I need it to end.


We should talk

From Laura Robbins on October 14, 2021 :: 11:58 pm

This is exactly what I have been going through. I posted back in dec 2020 on this same thread about my situation only at that time I didn’t know that this google workspace was how it was being done. (2)Would be (6) amazing (9) to have (4) someone to (2)talk to that (0)not only understands(4) but doesn’t look at you like your totally nuts.(2) If your interested(4) you can contact me day(4) or night doesn’t matter a time I don’t sleep well haven’t for long long time.


Fit for a Straight Jacket EX-BEAU

From Tonya Ramsey on June 21, 2021 :: 6:13 am

I have read the first page of comments and no longer question my sanity. Same scenarios all started 2 weeks after leaving a narcissist who has an addiction to cyber sexting. He will stop at nothing to protect his circle(?) and his reputation in my very small community. Originally, he gave me my phone and set up the email account. So, he has had access all along quietly. After the break up my phone went haywire linking and syncing contacts. He had already Enterprise enrolled my chromebook. He now has control over all online accounts including my admin account with Google. To explain the entire scheme would take too many minutes of your life. I found his MOBI drive which had everything I needed for proof. Before I could download the info. he moved it somewhere. I believe he is using my name and identities to elicit people to video chat, share and whatever else. He downloads files to my phone and computer. I have no idea what they contain. I think he is installing spyware descretely onto other people’s computers and watching them, also. He is an admitted voyeur. He is blatant when it comes to me and his intrusions, but he was doing it for two years without my knowledge. So, it’s likely he is remotely viewing others. I reported to the local police. They did nothing. They said the things I was describing were not possible. I blew up at my counselor who in turn along with the local authorities (who assume I am delusional or on drugs), got together and had me involuntarily committed. I was released with a clean bill of mental health. I have no friends left. They are afraid he’ll do the same to them. Actually, one of them did have her passwords changed. It’s quite a mess. This is going on five months and I cannot prove anything. I’m scared to death of what he is compiling to implicate me in some sort of crypto currency scam or internet sex crime. He allows me to keep this email address for reasons I fear is a set up. What am I going to do? Is there any way to get justice and hold him accountable for what he has done? I’ve found no way. Please, even if you have no answers, respond. I am completely ostracized in this community with no means of leaving. I’ll be happy with outside reassurance. Exhausted and pissed, Tonya Ramsey, [personal information redacted]


Stolen Identity over 4yrs of hell

From Not my name anymore. on July 29, 2021 :: 3:54 pm

All my accounts, personal information stolen by hackers. Since 2016 imposters possing as a fake oof my identity online romancing and swindling others fraudulent Ly, copies of personal documents, devices are cloning as first Samsung..s9 keep rebuilding and cloning over and hackers are using as tools to do fraudulent activities creating “the activities to make it look like myself”. My computer devices are showing they are organized and members connected to cell phone provider where original device was compromised. The provider ignored my report said I need to provide proof. That was the start of March covid 2020. The dataHarvesting start starting Dec 7 2019. Over 700 gigs per month of data used and the of the changed service provider but the imposters entered the place to change files jacking services to redirect the modem to dark server dataHarvesting on the modem logs communication services are unstoppable.
My business is folding, lost work leads, vehicle repo’d not able to meet financial obligations. So close to bankruptcy and have personally been sedated and have hired my services by using my kind natuured character and teaching me to not trust nor return to be harmed. The Machines are tasked to never stop. And to ruthlessly intended only collect website images one piece at a time to build fake websites and today the icing on the back because the ISP is as dark as the AundroidAuto app can be. My apologies to whom my name has been used to victimize as well as this who I disappointed unintentionally be it physical or psychological. 
I so wish you all the best.



From Not Rewarding Hackers on August 05, 2021 :: 12:57 pm

Been fully privacy & data breeched since Jan 2021- house, shop, online, etc. I was told after 6 phones that they have your social and that is how they are able to find your new purchases. Call the SS administration, i am calling today. All of the IP addresses loging into my account all stem from a cello partners/DBA verizon office. DO NOT GIVE IN!! They want my settlement from losing everything in a fire…. the dirtbags will not get a dime.



From Latif Siddique on August 20, 2021 :: 2:10 pm



please just a moment of your time.,

From peter-john on September 01, 2021 :: 7:15 pm

My girlfriends galaxy has hacked last Sunday the guy lived with us for a bit but we soon reallised he needed to leave I don’t wan to get into it he’s copied all her data to his one drive and whiped every thing she had like pics of now deseased dogs and and I tried my best to get software to try regain anything guys and girls please I come forward begging on both knees is there anything you can help or tell me to try .. Thanks for your time


Where Is The Information On Find Who Hacked Your Phone

From Vicky on October 18, 2021 :: 2:43 pm

I read through this and I see 9 items to help you determine if your phone is hacked.  But, the title is Find Out Who Hacked Your Phone.  I do not see
this information anywhere.  I know about the 9 different test…I want to know who has hacked my iPhone, just as the title expresses.


Help me please

From Joseph Klein on November 03, 2021 :: 9:43 am

My phone has been hacked my life has been hacked I need help please I’m on my third phone I don’t know what else to do they clone my phone they’ve done a lot of things and I just need my life back


I've been hacked on all levels even call intercept they even use Bluetooth cops are waiting on osbi

From Greg cater on November 22, 2021 :: 9:11 pm

They hold my messages. They use my cameras against me. They hack every app I download finally got a firewall but they still have control please help


Being hacked

From Anthony Hall on November 23, 2021 :: 11:12 pm

Some one else is using my phone number and email address and Google account from me Anthony Hall from Monticello Ark


Emei Number

From Karen Marie Lord Eyewe on November 29, 2021 :: 6:25 pm

What can be done if somebody else has your emei number on your phones? How can they use the emei numbers?


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