QUESTION: Is there a way to tell if someone has hacked my iPhone and is spying on me?
ANSWER: Apple has always been focused on making the iPhone as secure as possible, and with the release of iOS 14, the options for controlling and monitoring what’s happening with your phone have dramatically improved.
Despite all of these security features, there are a couple of ways that someone can gain access to your iPhone for spying purposes.
The first would require them to have access to your iPhone while it was unlocked so they can install a remote access tool on it.
How iPhone could be accessed with an app
Depending upon the tool they choose, they may need an extended amount of time with it to sneak an app in.
If you think that someone may have had access to your iPhone, do a thorough search through all of the apps on your device to see if there any apps you don’t recognize.
Most of the spy apps will use names that seem like regular apps like a calculator or a game, so any app you don’t recognize should be examined and removed if you don’t need it.
One of the best new features in iOS 14 is the “recording indicator” that will show you via a small dot above the battery icon if an app is currently accessing your camera (green) or microphone (orange).
Bringing up the Control Center will reveal which app is using either at the top, which can help you quickly identify a rogue app.
Spying without accessing your iPhone
If your iPhone backs everything up to your iCloud account, then someone can spy on your activity by accessing your iCloud account from any web browser.
They would need your Apple ID username and password in order to do this, so if you know that a third party has that information, there are a few steps you should take.
Start by changing the password to something that you’ve never used before, especially if the person knows your other passwords.
You should also change your security questions to answers that aren’t easily figured out. For instance, if you use the high school mascot question, make up a mascot instead of using what is a pretty easy thing to figure out by anyone that knows you.
Most importantly, make sure you have two-factor authentication turned on for your Apple ID, which makes remote access impossible without them having your iPhone in their hands at the time.
If you don’t care about using iCloud as a backup for your iPhone, you can turn it off to eliminate this form of spying altogether.
If you choose to do this, make sure you have another way to backup your iPhone first. You will also want to make an archive copy of what is stored in your iCloud account, then remove the content you want to protect.
Other signs to watch for
While there are ways for a skilled person to cover their tracks after compromising your device, there are often subtle indicators of a problem.
Things like strange screen activity that occurs when you aren’t using the phone, extremely slow startup or shutdown times, apps that suddenly shut down or a sudden spike in data usage can be indications of a compromised device.
The nuclear option
If none of these steps leave you feeling confident, you can take the extreme step to reset your iPhone to the factory settings, but that should only be done if you know that you have a good verified backup of everything you care about.
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