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How to tell if your phone is being tracked

Learn how to make your device more resilient
phone hacked

Ever feel like your phone has a mind of its own? It could be that it’s being tracked and you have no knowledge of it. We spoke to ESET Southern Africa’s Carey van Vlaanderen, who shared her expert tips on how you can tell whether your phone is being tracked and what to do in the event that it is. Read on to learn how to make your device more resilient to tracking. 

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How can you tell if your phone is being tracked?

There are a number of telltale signs that your phone might be tracking you without your knowledge and reporting on your every communication. Does the battery run down a lot quicker than it should and stay warm when idle? Does the screen stay lit when you try to turn it off? Are there unfamiliar applications running in the background? Does it take forever to shut down? On their own, these signs may not indicate tracking apps, but together they may mean your phone is hiding something.


Who would be tracking your phone and why?

According to Van Vlaanderen, hackers are the main culprits. They look for login information, and once they have access to a phone they can listen, look, track your location and view all of the person’s correspondence (calls, texts). This information can also be used to access any banking apps that may be on the phone, which they can then use to make transactions on the person’s bank account. 


Is phone tracking legal?

Tracking a phone by phone number is a pretty common request – with today’s tech-centred society, you do have some real, reliable options to find out where a phone actually is. Generally speaking, it’s illegal to access someone’s computer (which includes a smartphone) without authorisation. To track or trace a cellphone by phone number you will need to own the phone or have permission to access and track it.


So what should you do if your phone is being tracked?

Switch your phone on and off if you notice any of the above-mentioned signs. Where possible, do a soft reset on your phone as well. If your device is still acting out of the ordinary, restore the device to its original factory settings. This will, however, delete all the information, images, settings and everything else that you already have on the device. If this doesn’t seem to work, it may be an indication of a bigger problem. ‘The microphone or camera functionality of your phone may be in use by the tracker. As nonintuitive as this may sound, you may not want to power your phone off, as this may compromise data or evidence on your phone. Do turn off the network connectivity immediately, put the device in Airplane Mode and make sure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are disabled as well,’ says Van Vlaanderen


Are there any apps or software you can download to monitor phone tracking?

A good antivirus app should guard against spying and tracking apps.

These antivirus apps work best for Android:




While iOS devices cannot be affected by malware in the same way as Android devices, they are still vulnerable to suspicious threats. 

These antivirus apps work best for iOS:



Trend Micro

Photo: iStock/Martin Demitrov


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