Smartphones & Tablets

How to Tell If There Is Spyware on Your Phone

Most people are aware of the problem of spyware but only think of it as affecting computers. After all, when spyware first arose, smartphones were not yet invented. It makes sense, however, that the same criminals who use spyware to track movements on computers would do so on smartphones too.

What Spyware Will Monitor

The exact information that spyware will monitor depends on the spyware in question. But the common theme is that it remotely lets someone else monitor your activities. It may be installed by a malicious party who wants to gather your information. Or someone like a significant other or parent who does not trust you might install it. Depending on the spyware, it can monitor your call history, text messages, internet browsing, contacts, phone location, photos, and emails. Spyware can also use the microphone or monitor phone conversations and other messaging apps. Those actions are only possible in the case of rooted or jailbroken phones.

Unfortunately, It Is Hard to Tell

Unfortunately, it is usually very challenging to tell whether spyware is on your phone. The developers behind most spyware created it to be stealthy. Specifically, they aim to make the spyware undetectable. The most accurate way to tell if there is spyware on your phone is to have an expert complete a forensic examination.

Because of the stealth of spyware, you need to look for other indications that it is present on your phone.

Someone Had Access to Your Phone

The good news is that every current piece of spyware commercially available requires physical access to your phone. Someone must download the software, then install it on your phone. You are unlikely to accidentally install the software as it tends to take 15 to 20 minutes and is an active process.

This means that there is no concern about cybercriminals remotely installing spyware. On the other hand, anytime you left your phone unattended, someone could have installed spyware. This could be a family member, a friend, a significant other, or even a stranger if you left your phone in a public space.

Odd Phone Activity

Although spyware does its best to evade detection, there may be signs that it is on your phone. Examples include consuming more data than you should be or using more battery than normal. In the case of a rooted or jailbroken phone, the phone may also drop calls or randomly shut down. You may also notice it randomly lighting up as if it is in use when it is not.

Someone Has Unusual Knowledge

In the case of spyware installed by someone playing an active role in your life, you may find other signs of the software. The perfect example is if someone seems to know the information they should not. This is particularly common in the case of a manipulative or emotionally abusive relationship. Of course, you should determine if the information could have come from another source, such as someone who was present during an activity. You will also have to evaluate if the information the person knows matches up to what spyware would show them.

Background Noises

Remember that some spyware can monitor and record phone calls or use your microphone to record conversations. In this case, you may notice background noise. This can also occur from a poor connection or other problems. If, however, it occurs regularly, your phone may have spyware.

Receiving Weird Texts

Depending on the type of spyware, you may also receive odd text messages made up of symbols and numbers. These are commands sent to your phone. When configured properly, you will not see the messages. Sometimes, however, the spyware developers slip up and you can view the texts.

Using Technical Knowledge to Check

If you are good with technology and suspect spyware, you can check yourself. This advanced method involves looking at your phone’s files. Go to the “Running Services” or “Manage Applications” in your “Applications” folder. There, search for any suspicious files. Most programs will take care to choose an inconspicuous name, however, so this will not always work.

Remember that you cannot have spyware on your phone unless someone physically installed it. This means that if you keep your phone with you 24/7, any of the above signs likely have another explanation.


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