Can you spy on a cell phone remotely?

In 1993, a Belgian television crew interviewed the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, and the journalist dared to ask a question about what the newspaper Release has just revealed: personalities such as the journalist Edwy Plenel, the writer Jean-EdernHallier or the actress Carole Bouquet were the subject of listenings sponsored by the Élysée. Mitterrand immediately takes a shocked stance and abruptly ends the interview. In reality, these wiretapping had actually taken place. The fact is that by the time the case is decided in 2004, the main stakeholder will have long since left this world.

Ten years later, in 2014, it appears that the conversations between Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog were the subject of wiretapping, even though the ex-president’s mobile phone had been acquired in the name of Paul Bismuth. And in 2021, it emerged that President Emmanuel Macron’s phone was tapped from Morocco using Pegasus spyware.

Individuals get involved

The novelty lies in the development of “stealth” software that anyone can install on a loved one’s smartphone to spy on it. Whether the motivation is jealousy of a partner suspected of infidelity, mistrust of an employee, or the desire to guarantee the safety of one’s children, it has become relatively easy to monitor a guy.

There are many applications and all you need is a simple search on Google Play or the App Store to find out for sure: mSpy, SpyGate, Spyfer, eyeZy or Umobix are among the best known, but there are many of them . others, sold open. These apps go much further than just spying on conversations and offer a wide range of features. They hardly recommend that their users respect the law.

What the law says

Wanting to be reassured is one thing. But in most cases, spying on phone conversations is prohibited and severely punished. The Criminal Code (Articles 226-15, 226-1 and 226-2) punishes these activities with up to a fine of €45,000 and one year in prison.

Section 226-15 of the Criminal Code is formal: ” The act, committed in bad faith, of opening, deleting, delaying or diverting correspondence, regardless of whether it has arrived at its destination and is addressed to a third party, or fraudulently becomes aware of it, is punishable by one year’s imprisonment. fine of 45,000 euros. The same penalties apply to any act, committed in bad faith, of intercepting, diverting, using or disclosing correspondence sent, transmitted or received by electronic means, or installing devices designed to effect such interception. »

It is also good to know that the evidence obtained in this way will not be taken into account by the courts, for example in the context of an adversarial divorce proceeding.

What we can do

What can be done legally in this matter? An employer is authorized under European law to carry out electronic surveillance if he informs his employees in advance.

An adult can install monitoring software on a child’s smartphone since they are their legal guardian until they turn 18. The same would apply to someone under guardianship or guardianship. In all other cases, especially when adultery is suspected, spying on someone else’s cell phone is an illegal activity and punishable as such.

If monitoring children is the main motivation, some also install apps of this type on their own smartphones. In case of theft, they are thus able to locate the device and try to identify who stole it.

Still need to install the app

For a cell phone spy activity to work, one needs to gain access to the target device to download and activate the app on it. This usually takes a few minutes. The task is less easy with smartphones that use biometric identification systems such as those from Apple. However, note that if the device is turned on and active, it is generally possible to use it when the person concerned is absent for a short time.

Some spyware even offers tricks: a message is sent to the recipient, and when they click on a certain link or button, the app is installed in the background.

Once installed, the app is invisible on the target phone: no icon appears on the home screen and the app is not listed in “Settings”. The person in question will thus not suspect anything.

A wide range of monitoring tools

As we said above, remote monitoring apps go much further than just listening to phone conversations in real time. Other options are open to the indiscreet:

  • geolocate the person being spied on and thus track their movements;
  • get a copy of the messages exchanged on iOS as on Android;
  • be informed about activity on Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and other networks;
  • take photos or even videos without the smartphone user’s knowledge;
  • transfer content from the targeted device;
  • view web browser history;
  • remote blocking of specific phone numbers or specific websites;
  • turn off the phone after a certain period of use;
  • sending a notification when an event occurs on the target phone;
  • know the typed messages due to the presence of a keylogger which tracks what is written.

This data is usually forwarded to an online customer area accessible from a web browser.

This is how you know if you are being spied on

It is not easy to detect if someone is trying to spy on us. Some applications such as WTMP or LookWatch at least allow you to know if someone has tried to use your smartphone without your knowledge.

A sign that could give you the flea in your ear would be an abnormal drop in battery charge because the device’s microphone is remotely activated to encourage listening to what is being said. Yes, but such a low battery situation does not necessarily mean that we are listening to you.

If the shutdown of the smartphone is much longer than before, it may be a sign of the use of a spy app. Sometimes it is impossible or very difficult to turn off the device completely – it remains constantly in sleep mode – and this can be a sign of the use of such an application.

Can we escape eavesdropping?

What can you do to stay safe from potential interception of your conversations and activities? A solution may be to use a disposable telephone such as those found in tobacco shops or in operator shops.

Another way to make discreet calls can be to some extent using a landline if you have one at home, or even better, going to a payphone if there is still one in your area.

You can also go to an Internet cafe and use a program like Skype to call your correspondent from a computer.

There are of course secure messengers such as Signal or Telegram. Only here: If the spyware contains a quality keylogger, it records what you type, and this information can therefore be forwarded to the intruder.

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