How to find out if your mobile has a spy app
What is a spy app?
A spy app is an application which is installed on a phone without the owner’s consent and the app transfers data to a remote server which can be accessed by an unauthorised user. This application will be hidden from the application menu or disguised to prevent the owner from noticing and/or uninstalling it.
What can a spy app do?
Too many things, from sending Call, SMS and location details to discreetly knowing whom you met, what conversation you had, how long you talk to a person over the phone, etc, etc. Here is the list of things that a spy app can do:
1. Send Call logs
2. Send SMS logs
3. Send Call Recordings as MP3 files along with duration, time of call and location
4. Send Location details every few minutes.
5. Record Audio/Video for specified duration via GCM call.
6. Get all Pictures form Gallery / WhatsApp / Downloaded from web.
7. Lock your mobile.
8. Change Pin / password of your mobile.
9. Wipe out mobile data (factory reset)
Rooted phones allow Apps to monitor keyboard and send facebook chats / WhatsApp conversation / Skype chats and more.
To disallow the uninstallation of spy apps easily it will have device administrator enabled. App with “Device Administrator” enabled cannot be deleted from the Application list without disabling the “Device Administrator” privilege given to it.
Mobiles Support for Spy Apps:
Android phones allow all of the 9 points mentioned above. Apple iPhones do not. For any of the above features to work, the iPhone needs to be Rooted.
Google Play ensures that such spy apps are not hosted in their play store. If someone uploads it, they are taken down by Google Automated System. As per the new Google Play Policy, an app cannot transfer data out of mobile in the background without showing a notification in top bar alerting users about data transfer.The app should not allow the user to hide icons either. The icon should also be in relevance with the app functionality. For example, a ‘Cell Tracker’ App cannot have a ‘Settings’ icon to mislead the owner.
But since Android allows Side-Loading (Direct downloading of an app from different sources than Google Play) it’s easy to install remote monitoring / Spy application directly. The user only needs your mobile for 10 Minutes and he is all set to track you forever remotely.
How to identify if your mobile has Spy App:
As said before spy app will be disguised to look like some other icon like a “Settings” or default Android System icon. Even the name would be something like “Settings”, “Tools” which you will not bother to open.
✔ Install Lookout Security app from Google Play. It’s lightweight and helps scan and auto-detect any spy apps installed on the device.
✔ To know if a spy app is installed first check your Device Administrator list to see if there are any apps that you have not downloaded yourself. If you find any apps, no matter the name, no matter the icon of the app, just disable the privilege and uninstall it from the application list as valid system applications will not be listed in there. Device Administrator list can be found under Settings -> Security or Settings -> Application.
✔ Check if your device is rooted.
✔ Check if you are having too much data usage either via Wifi / Mobile data and which application is using the most. Go to Settings -> Data -> Usage to view the list.
Benefits of Spy App
Spy App also has few benefits. If your mobile has the potential of being stolen or someone else trying to use your mobile, spy apps can be of help.
If your spy app installed mobile gets stolen, you get all the information of thief, his location, his new mobile number if he changes SIM, his Call and SMS details which can help you get back your mobile.
Srihari Karanth is an active developer and Founder of TrackMyPhones. He is a former Software Architect in Global MNC. He now works on building new innovative mobile applications and websites. You can reach him at Srihari@TrackMyPhones.com