In the digital age, our smartphones have become extensions of ourselves, holding a treasure trove of personal information. Unfortunately, the threat of phone tapping or unauthorised access is ever-present.
Phone untapping refers to identifying and eliminating unauthorised access or surveillance on your smartphone. It involves detecting and neutralising spyware, malware, or any suspicious activity compromising your privacy.
Usually, phone tapping is illegal without consent, often violating privacy and wiretapping laws of the country. For example, in India, illegal phone tapping violates the Right to Privacy, one of the many rights enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian constitution.
But the governments or malicious actors, even with the prior knowledge that this practice is illegal, continue to practice it as people don’t know how to know they are being watched and how to counter it. The governments have invested in a full-fledged surveillance infrastructure, especially targeting journalists, students and marginalised groups.
The countries collect citizens’ data from third parties and even buy the data. Combining the above surveillance mechanisms with technologies like facial recognition and international surveillance alliances paints a rather gloomy picture for citizens.
But there is nothing to fear as in this comprehensive article, we’ll explore how you can untap your phone if you fear that malicious activities are happening on your device.
Signs your phone might be tapped
There are a few signs that tell you that you’re being illegally monitored. You need to know these signs so that you can then untap your phone.
Here are the signs:
- Unusual battery drain: If your phone’s battery drains faster than usual, it could be due to the surveillance apps running in the background.
- Excessive data usage: In countries like India where the data is quite cheap, you may not care about the daily data usage. However, it is known that when your phone is on surveillance, excessive data is consumed as the spyware often sends data back to its controller.
- Unexplained background noise: Do you hear unexplained noises in the background during calls? If it occurs often, your phone might be on surveillance.
- Slow performance: As the surveillance apps take a lot of RAM and are always active, your phone might act a bit laggy than usual.
Also read: How to find hidden spy apps on Android?
How to untap your phone?
Now that you have understood the extent of surveillance worldwide and how to know if you are being phone-tapped, let us understand how you can untap your phone.
Scan for suspicious apps
The first thing that you should do is install a reputed anti-malware software on your phone and run a scan. Maybe you will find a suspicious app that is spying on you. If you notice any such app, immediately uninstall it.
Review permissions on your phone
Spyware usually wants almost unrestricted access to your device, including location, camera, calls, and permissions.
Check the app permissions on your phone and revoke the permissions that you feel are unnecessary for that app. Here’s how to change the app permissions on Android:
- Navigate to Settings > Security and privacy.
- Next, head to Privacy > Permission manager.
- You will see all the permissions that the apps are currently using. Tap on the permission that you want to change. For example, I have selected a Microphone.
- After that, you will see app apps that are using your phone’s Microphone. This means that these apps can record your voice if they want. Tap on the app that you want to stop giving microphone permission.
- Tap on Don’t allow if you think you will never need this permission.
Regularly update your phone
Operating system companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft regularly release patches to fix exploits.
If you are one of those people who postpone security updates for a later date, you should wake up as hackers and malicious actors exploit these gaps in your phone’s operating system to snoop on you.
Head to Settings > System > Check for updates to update your Android phone. This step is for those who have stock Android. For others having custom operating systems, the steps may be a bit different, but the base remains the same.
To update iOS, go to General > Software Update> Download and Install.
Seek professional help
As soon as you catch wind of something unusual in your phone, immediately contact a professional cybersecurity expert and a lawyer because it will be a long battle ahead for you, especially if your government is spying on you. If it’s the handiwork of a foreign entity — government or private — then a lawyer and a cybersecurity expert can immensely help.
File a report with the authorities as soon as possible and go to court under the relevant laws of your country.
Set a strong password
Always use complex, unique passwords for your accounts and enable two-factor authorisation (2FA) on your device.
Your passwords must not resemble any number remotely connected to you, like your age, partner’s age or birth date, street address, and marriage or other important dates of your life, among others.
Your passwords must also not include usual codes like 12345, 54321, 11111, 22222, etc. It should consist of upper and lower case letters and special characters like @, ! and $, etc.
Head to this article for more information on how to choose a strong password.
Avoid suspicious links and giving your personal information
Scammers and hackers often send links, claiming it to be a life-changing offer or something. Always remember, nothing in this world is free, and if someone is promising an extraordinary gift or an offer via a link, be a bit cautious to click on it.
Similarly, avoid handing out your personal information to anyone on the internet or in real life. You don’t know which information can be detrimental to your private life. Hackers often look for information that can reveal your private life, such as your credit card information, how many bank accounts you have, or where you went on your vacation last summer. Using these bits of information, they can analyse your whole life.
Use a VPN
To hide your original IP address, always use a VPN while visiting websites. A paid VPN is always better than a free one.
Here’s a list of the top 7 VPNs for various platforms.
Factory reset your phone
If you feel that all the above steps are not working, then performing a factory reset will untap your phone.
To reset your Android device, head to System > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset).
To factory reset iOS, head to General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.
In conclusion, phone tapping is an illegal practice used worldwide. But with the steps mentioned in this article, you can counter it and untap your phone to protect your privacy.
Also read: How to identify phishing scams?
Frequently answered questions (FAQs)
Here are some FAQs on the topic:
How can I tell if my phone is tapped without using any tools?
Detecting phone tapping without tools can be challenging, but you can start by monitoring battery usage, data consumption, and unusual background noise during calls. If you suspect tapping, consider professional assistance.
Is phone tapping the same as hacking?
They share similarities but have a distinct purpose based on who is doing what. Usually, phone tapping is done by intelligence agencies to gather information about an individual, while hacking involves gaining unauthorised access to systems or accounts.
What should I do if I discover my phone is tapped?
If you suspect phone tapping, immediately disconnect from the internet, uninstall suspicious apps, change passwords, and seek professional help from cybersecurity experts and lawyers if necessary. You can also seek the help of various human rights organisations and civil society groups.
Can law enforcement tap my phone without my knowledge?
In many countries, law enforcement agencies require legal authorisation to tap phones. However, the specifics vary by jurisdiction, so you must know your local phone tapping and surveillance laws.
Also read: Can you be hacked through Instagram DM?