In this article, I intend to explain how you can remotely spy on someone’s phone in some cases, whether it is an iPhone or Android. I can also talk a little bit about how to defend yourself from these situations.
Hey, it is your best friend Frankie here. Every day, I get dozens of messages and questions tapping into how terrifying of a reality it is that someone can spy on a phone without installing software.
Since you are here reading this, it appears that you need answers about these topics as well.
The main question here is if you can hack someone’s phone and read texts or see other activities with only having a phone number to go on.
Today, I will answer all of these questions for you.
We should start with the techniques used to spy on mobile phones, and you can learn a little more about how to monitor an iPhone. Check it out!
Some of the methods here are advanced and highly technical, and others fall more into an artisanal heading – but must not get underestimated despite this reason.
Ironically it is often the simple and non-elaborate techniques that can tap into our proclivity for distractions and emotional weaknesses – rather than focusing our minds on security flaws present in information systems – that can have the greatest successes.
The answer to the main question of this article then, is YES.
It is indeed possible to spy on a cell phone without installing any software, but not in some ‘magical’ way. These options all hinge on an ‘unknown collaboration’ with the victim.
If you keep reading you can get a better understanding of what I’m referring to.
How to spy on someones phone
We are going to analyze the main techniques used by malicious people to spy on phones.
These are among the most dangerously effective espionage tactics, primarily because they often get underestimated until it is too late.
These methods exploit our carelessness and attack the smart device we have with us (most usually your phone) to keep much of the data that can get discovered.
Social engineering manipulates the victim into providing his or her sensitive data.
I can give you an example.
An attacker or manipulator can use a cleverly executed excuse to borrow your phone and utilize this situation to steal data or nose through your messages during this brief period.
You should take a moment to watch this video below for some examples of social engineering so you can stay prepared.
Once the attacker gains access to the victim’s phone, he does not just waste time casually reading messages – he installs spy applications to review the activity of your phone remotely.
One example of this is mSpy, which is compatible with both Android and iOS systems, and it is one of the premier spying apps in the world.
With it, you can:
- See apps that get used
- Monitor call logs
- Read messages in any chat platform (iMessage, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.)
- See what gets typed into the keyboard and more
Best of all, the target of this attack has no idea it is even happening.
You can learn more (how to install on iPhone or Android and how does it works) in this guide I have written on mSpy – the Best Cell Phone Tracker App. Inside you will also find a discount voucher (it’s a gift reserved for readers of my blog)
Sadly, with social engineering cases, there are no security features to adequately prevent this.
If you are lending something your smartphone, you have granted them temporary access to the device – leaving the screen unlocked and them able access apps. You might also find that there is just enough time to install an espionage app onto the device without your knowledge.
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This is yet another spying technique that mirrors social engineering in a way.
This hinges on attacking a smartphone or user accounts by developing malicious links.
Through either SMS or email, the attacker can encourage the target to visit a link which can in turn direct them inadvertently to spy applications.
Spy apps get installed on the smartphone which allow remote monitoring of the device – or alternatively, you can fake social networking pages – this process is known as phishing.
With phishing, users get asked to enter login credentials to access their account. When you attempt to do this on a fake landing page, that information gets stored with the attacker to allow later access to your actual account.
With access to your social media accounts, they can log in to your Facebook, Instagram, and see any other accounts the phishing campaign uncovered.
This is likely one of the most popular methods of spying on Facebook messages for free without having the phone or to find out the Instagram password of an account.
In this case, you can protect yourself by preventing the installation of apps from unknown sources.
In truth, Android phones are more prone to malware than either iOS or Windows phones.
Disabling the installation of apps from unknown sources (i.e. apps that do not come from the Google Play Store), you go to Settings > Security. Find the toggle for unknown sources and ensure it is ticked to OFF.
You might also consider the installation of a decent antivirus program for your phone.
Another equally important precaution is to be leery of all links you get through your email or SMS.
Unless you have specifically requested for a password to get reset, no website or social network is going to send you requests to update your password through email. Banks and other accounts won’t do this, either. Do not follow these links through the email, and do not give personal data if you are not 100% certain.
3. Software Vulnerability
Malicious individuals can also attempt to exploit security flaws and design defects built into the operating systems and the applications used on the smartphones we have.
I can give you a practical example of what I am talking about.
Think of WhatsApp, including the WhatsApp Web function. Thanks to this feature, the app can get ‘replicated’ in a way on a smartphone, tablet, or computer. This grants full access to all conversations.
The WhatsApp Web works just like the official client for Windows and macOS, by scanning a QR code with the camera on your smartphone.
Once this has been scanned, if the checkbox is selected to retain access, you can always access WhatsApp on your computer by simply connecting to the WhatsApp Web page or opening up the computer client.
So what does all of that jargon actually mean?
It means that an attacker could momentarily take possession of your smartphone (namely with the social engineering technique mentioned earlier) and scan that QR code to their PC or tablet. This would give them unabated access to your WhatsApp account, and you would never even notice.
I say unabated access because WhatsApp Web and WhatsApp for PC work even if your smartphone is connected to the internet via a mobile data network. If your phone is out of Wi-Fi range and away from a PC, an attacker can still monitor your activity.
This happens to be one of the easiest methods for tapping a phone remotely.
Regarding WhatsApp, there are applications that (without access to the victim’s phone) can permit you access the application with only entering the phone number of the intended target.
Fortunately, you cannot pick up messages with this route – more just access to schedules through WhatsApp. It is still good to know that there are also solutions, though, to these problems as well.
For security flaws in either apps or operating systems, you might not have one precise method for addressing them, as each flaw or shortcoming is uniquely specific.
Some cases only have you vulnerable to data exposure with unauthorized access by opening a malicious file, others have you visit a link that takes your device to a malicious landing page for this purpose.
You can avoid and even possibly block access through WhatsApp Web by going to Settings > WhatsApp Web / Desktop menu in the application.
If you need any help updating your Android or iOS device, you can you can consult tutorials on these topics:
4. Sniffing Wireless Networks
Many apps, including WhatsApp and Messenger, now use advanced encryption techniques – sniffing wireless networks still remains one of the main ways to steal user data connected to them.
‘Sniffing’ is capturing information traveling within a Wi-Fi network.
It seems like some sort of high-level espionage you’d see in a Bond film, but there are many tutorials you can access to learn how to crack WiFi passwords in basic steps.
There are even pre-designed programs and software – like the Kali Linux Network Distribution – that when exploited can allow you to ‘puncture’ a wireless network. Once you have accomplished this, you have access to the traffic moving through these points.
If the information traveling on this wireless network is encrypted, there are no major risks for you and your information getting sniffed.
If the information gets uncovered without any encryption or inadequate protection, you can find yourself at a point where data theft is all but a certainty.
One of the best ways that you can protect yourself from these types of attacks is to avoid public Wi-Fi networks. If you are at home or an office, you need to ensure that these networks also have the appropriate protection.
This starts with a long and complex encryption key – but also ensuring that your network exists on an active encryption system such as WPA2-AES.
5. Spy Cameras
Spying on a mobile phone without the installation of spyware is no easy feat, but with the help of spy cameras, and other surveillance equipment, you can steal passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive data.
All you have to do in these situations is ensure that the victim is in the appropriate place when they type in important information to their phone and you are all set.
These days, spy cameras are small, cheap, and very easy to install and use.
Noticing them is also difficult to do, so I would avoid adding in any vital sensitive information out in public areas. If you really have to, attempt to block your phone as much as possible with your body and take a look around before beginning.
How to stop someone from spying on my phone
At this point, it is fairly safe to suggest that spying on a mobile phone is all but impossible without installing specific programs on it.
It is impossible to steal data without spying on the victim with cameras, sniffing the wireless network, or other strategies labeled above as well.
The ideal method used for spying on a smartphone is the installation of spy apps after gaining brief physical access to the device. I have mentioned a few of these programs in the tutorial on hacking Facebook or WhatsApp, Instagram or spying on iPhones.
With a precise explanation, I can give you some ‘tips’ – different from what I have already given you in other areas of the tutorial – to avoid attacks by ‘spies’ and find out if someone has installed spy applications on your smartphone.
Verify Apps Installed on Your Smartphone
Spy applications often hide off of the home screen and the system menus, but there are tricks that can enable you to find them.
First, go to the Settings menu of your smartphone and check if there is any suspicious name in the list of installed applications on the device.
This would be an easy way to decipher what could be a spy app and worth deleting.
To see the full list of apps installed on your mobile phone, here is what you do.
- Go to Settings > App Menu. Press the (…) button at the top right. Select the Display System option from the menu that appears.
- Go to Settings > General > Device Storage and iCloud. Press Manage Storage located under Device Storage.
Here I would recommend that you check applications that have advanced permissions, then applications that have permissions to control other actions performed on the phone.
These are some steps to take:
- Go to Settings > Security > Device Administrators. If you have unlocked your device with a root, open the SuperSU/SuperUser application and check the list of apps that have root permissions.
- Go to Settings > Profile and Device Manager menu to check if there are specific profiles for apps that you do not have installed.
Try opening up your browser (e.g. Safari for iOS and Chrome on Android) and typing in the localhost:8888 and localhost:4444 addresses and also typing *12345 in the phone numbering screen.
These are special codes that some spy apps use to allow access to their control panels.
Use a Secure Unlock Code
If you do not ever lend you smartphones to strangers (which is very wise) and set your phone to have a secure unlock code, you can be reasonably certain that no one can install spy apps to your device.
To set up a secure unlock code, do the following:
With an Android smartphone, go to Settings > Security > Screen Lock > PIN and type the unlock code you want to use to access your smartphone twice in a row.
If you have a mobile phone with a fingerprint sensor, I would recommend that you set up fingerprint unlocking through the Security menu and the Fingerprint option.
I do not recommend unlocking with gestures, as these are easy enough to recognize when anyone watches you access your phone.
With an iPhone, go to Settings > Touch ID and Code, and select the option relating to the lock code and type the code that you wish to use twice in a row.
If you have Touch ID, you can use your fingerprint to unlock the phone by choosing to Add a Fingerprint.
If you lend your smartphone to trusted friends from time to time, there is a risk that your device will end up with someone unreliable. Hide apps that you consider valuable or that contain sensitive information. For more on how to do this, check out my tutorials on How to Hide Android Apps and How to Hide iPhone Apps.
Manage Passwords Securely
Regardless of what you say about spying on your smartphone, it is important to learn to securely manage passwords so they are less likely to get discovered by malicious attackers.
You can find all the information you need about this in my tutorial about how to manage passwords.
If you have any questions or concerns, leave me a comment in the box below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.