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Avast Academy Security Malware How to Detect and Remove Spyware From an iPhone

How to Detect and Remove Spyware From an iPhone

Is someone spying on your iPhone? Spyware is a type of malware (or app) that sneaks around your phone, tracking your online activity, monitoring your keystrokes, and even activating your camera and microphone. Learn how to detect and remove spyware from your iPhone and see why a strong security and malware-protection app like Avast One should be your first line of privacy protection.

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Want to skip straight to the spyware removal method? We hear you. Find out how to remove spyware from an iPhone and get started immediately. Are you curious how that junk got on your phone in the first place? Keep reading, because we've got answers.

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    Can someone spy on my iPhone?

    Yes, someone can gain remote, real-time access to your iPhone using spying software. Spyware can track your GPS location, record your keypad inputs such as credit card numbers and passwords, and monitor your calls, texts, app usage, emails, voice, and other personal data.

    How to detect spyware on iPhone

    Wondering how to tell if someone is spying on your iPhone? If you know the answer is yes, skip down to learn how to remove spyware on iPhone. If you want to first learn about iPhone spyware detection, here’s how to check for spyware on iPhone:


    Well-functioning iPhones should not overheat. If your device feels unusually warm or even hot, this may indicate someone is spying on your iPhone. Spyware installation is not the only reason for an overheated phone, so don't panic.

    You may just need to learn how to clean up your iPhone, and all devices can also benefit from removing unnecessary junk files and apps.

    Drained battery

    Are you always running on red? Spyware works behind the scenes 24/7 to spy on your digital movements. That's why a constantly drained battery is a sign of spyware. Ripping through data is normal if you stream video a lot or are a frequent mobile gamer, but look out for your battery draining at an unusually fast rate.

    Unusual messages

    Are you getting random pop-up messages on your iPhone when you browse online? Unsolicited advertisements might indicate spyware infiltration, as spyware is often bundled with adware. These odd messages may also come in the form of text messages, or app notifications if you’ve jailbroken your phone and installed apps from outside the App Store.

    Excessive data usage

    Just as spyware will drain your battery, it will also deplete your data. Spyware uses your own mobile data to send out the information it collects on you. That means that you’re footing the bill to send a stalker, hacker, or unwanted snoop data on your digital activities (and maybe even video and audio footage). If your iPhone is sluggish for reasons other than sucked up data usage, learn why your iPhone is slow and how to speed it up.

    New apps

    In many cases, spyware is secretly installed by a parent or suspicious partner. The presence of unknown apps you don't remember downloading is a good reason to install a mobile security app, as unknown apps can indicate that someone else has access to your iPhone.

    How to remove spyware from your iPhone

    iPhone spyware removal can be done by updating your software, removing suspicious apps, or performing a factory reset. Because iPhone spyware often stays hidden in an unknown file or app, it's not always as easy as hitting a delete button. A spyware removal tool can detect and remove spyware from other types of devices.

    Update your software

    Some iPhone spy software is effective only because of an iOS security flaw. Hackers are always looking for software vulnerabilities to exploit, which Apple regularly fixes via Apple security updates.

    You will reap the benefits of these anti-spyware software patches only if you update your software to the latest iOS release. An iOS update may also help you remove ransomware from your iPhone (or imitation ransomware, which is more common on iOS).

    How do you know if you have the latest iOS updates? You’ll see red notification alerts on the Settings App, General tab, and Software Updates tab.

    To get the latest version of iOS:

    1. Click the Settings app icon.

      Screenshot of the iPhone home screen where apps are displayed with icons. Settings app is highlighted.
    2. Scroll down and tap General.

      Screenshot of options within the iPhone Settings app.
    3. Then tap Software Update.

      Software Update option within the General section of an iPhone's Settings app.
    4. Follow the prompts to install the software update: Download & Install, Agree to Terms, Enter Password.

      Agree to Apple's Terms and Conditions of the iOS update in order to install the latest software.

    Remove suspicious apps

    Have you noticed an app on your phone that you didn’t download? Delete the suspicious app on your iPhone by pressing and holding the app icon. Several options will appear. Tap Remove app (or Delete App, depending on your version of iOS), and then confirm by tapping Delete app.

     Screenshot of iPhone home screen with option to confirm deletion of an app.

    Each app will offer a different range of choices after you press and hold the app icon to activate settings. But all apps have the Delete App option in red as the first or last option.

    If you have a jailbroken iPhone, you have an increased risk of being exposed to unsafe apps sourced from the off-market App Store, Cydia. While iPhone viruses don't exist (yet), your iPhone can still get infected with other forms of malware. Learn how to remove malware from your iPhone and get rid of those dodgy apps immediately.

    Perform a factory reset

    As a last resort, try performing a factory reset to remove spyware. This approach will erase all data from your device (and hopefully the spyware), so be sure to back up your device using iTunes or iCloud before wiping it clean.

    We say hopefully remove spyware, because you’ll need to restore from a backup that was created before the spyware was installed on your phone. A backup made after that point will still contain the spyware app. So, if you restore to that backup, you’ll end up reinstalling the spyware along with everything else.

    Here’s how to perform a factory reset on your iPhone:

    1. Click the Settings app.

    2. Scroll down and select General.

    3. Scroll to the bottom and select Reset.

    4. Select Erase All Content and Settings, and then confirm your option.

    Options within the General tab of Settings app on iPhone. Reset option for restoring factory settings is at bottom.

    Now, keep spyware off your iPhone!

    You've gone to the trouble of learning how to detect and remove spyware from your iPhone. Now, shore up your defenses and download Avast One, a comprehensive security and privacy app to keep your phone secure.

    This lightweight, top-rated, and totally free app goes way beyond antivirus with thorough malware protection, VPN access, and a web shield to protect against dangerous websites and data breaches. It's the easiest way to keep control of your digital life without compromise.

    What makes iPhone spyware so dangerous?

    Spyware is monitoring software that invades personal space. Despite Apple's best efforts, iOS spying software keeps coming back in new disguises. This type of malware is dangerous because iPhone spyware detection is difficult. Spyware stays hidden on your iPhone, recording your every move, including your location, passwords, emails, calls — basically your entire life.

    Think of everything you do on your iPhone. Now imagine a stalker, hacker, cybercriminal, or even someone you know personally having access to all of it. That’s unsettling, to say the least.

    Spyware comes in many forms depending on the needs of the spy. The target device can be hit by adware that tracks your movements across the web, Trojan malware that poses as something useful but secretly tracks your activities, or keyloggers that target your keypad inputs.

    Apple has tried to update their security to block spyware, but spyware can still attack iPhones. The Pegasus spyware that emerged in 2017 was the very first spyware capable of infecting iPhones and iPads. It took advantage of an unknown (zero-day) vulnerability within iOS that could jailbreak the device (gain root access) and monitor activities. Apple quickly released a security patch, but iPhone spyware still persists today.

    Even legitimate paid apps on the official App Store can be a Trojan horse for spyware, such as Adware Doctor (2010), Exodus (2019), and officially marketed "parental controls" apps like mSpy. And if someone installs it on your phone with your consent, a standard parental control app can easily slip into spyware territory.

    How to protect your iPhone from spyware

    If your iPhone is already infected with spyware, you need to remove it now. Take these basic steps to protect yourself from spyware infiltration.

    Secure your phone against physical access

    Spyware can be loaded onto your iPhone remotely via a malicious app, or physically if someone gains access to your phone. Always protect your device with a secure PIN or Touch ID and Face ID, depending on which model of iPhone you have.

    Download a security app

    If you're looking for iPhone protection for browsing on public Wi-Fi or encrypting personal photos, check out our list of the best privacy and security apps for iPhones. To fight against annoying ads and defend against malvertising, look for the best ad blockers for iPhone.

    A free iOS security app is a great way to protect your phone against spyware and other malware. And to keep your other devices safe, see our roundup of the best free antivirus software and pick the one that best suits your device and needs.

    Protect your iPhone from spyware and other threats

    All types of unwanted software are uninvited guests. But spyware doubles down as a truly noxious type of threat. A strong iPhone security and privacy app can protect you from unknowingly sending out sensitive data, and give you peace of mind when you snap pics, chat, and do whatever it is that you do with your phone.

    Thankfully, the best security and privacy app for iPhone is free. Avast One for iOS offers far more than just antivirus and malware protection — it’s a complete security and privacy app designed specifically for iPhones and iPads. And it's the best and simplest way to keep your phone secure.

    Protect your Android against spyware with Avast One


    Protect your iPhone against spyware with Avast One