In a report about the spyware industry by Webroot, spyware apps brought in a revenue of $2 billion in 2005. Since then, the industry has shown no signs of slowing down. With smartphones becoming a necessity in today’s world, there has been no shortage of companies advertising spyware to spouses, parents, and businesses in the guise of monitoring software. The reality is, this software often ends up in the hands of cybercriminals or abusive partners. It ends up inflicting harm instead of helping keep your loved ones safe.
The problem lies with perception. Most people do not take cybersecurity seriously. They are either unaware or think that it’s improbable that anything will happen to them until it does. With the digital universe becoming an increasingly important aspect of our lives, it is up to us to remain vigilant and protect our data from theft and misuse. We have all of our information inside our mobile devices, including Medical history, banking details, addresses, and contacts. And hackers using spyware can even steal data and spy on Android phone without physical access. Not only is the idea of someone stealing your personal information, but it could also lead to much more serious consequences like identity theft.
Watch The Video Below To Know Why You Shouldn’t Use Mobile Spy Apps
Video Source: All Things Secured
However, do not panic. All is not yet lost. Read on further to find out what spyware is, how to spot it, and how to remove it from your devices.
What is Spyware?
Generally, spyware is any software that records your information on any device—your phone, tablet, or computer—without your consent or knowledge. It can be divided into three broad categories.
Also called Potentially Unwanted Programs (PuP), these usually get on your system along with legitimate free programs. Although not particularly dangerous, this software can record your browsing data, change your browser homepage, and show you unwanted ads all the time.
Spyware is software with generic purposes, as opposed to stalker ware that is downloaded for specific purposes. Spyware can record and transmit data such as your SMS, MMS, and emails. It can also eavesdrop on you using your device’s microphone.
A term recently coined, Stalkerware has a more personal use than spyware. It is usually purchased by parents and jealous spouses to keep an eye on the immediate people around them. Stalkerware functions similarly to spyware, but may come with additional features such as analysis reports and location history.
Spyware is usually marketed as monitoring software. However, this software erodes trust and enables toxic relationships in the workplace and at home. In a few instances, some companies use this software on work devices with the knowledge and consent of their employees. If so, employees should keep their personal information off company devices.
We took a look at some of the most popular spy apps available on the internet and found they vary in pricing, features, and how they advertise themselves.
Xnspy: is a monitoring software anyone can buy today for a subscription price of $89 per year. Despite being a cheaper option, it still comes with all the additional features that modern spyware offers. The app can be easily installed on any unsuspecting victim’s phone, regardless of its operating system. Once on the target device, xnspy collects all forms of data on that device. This includes basic stuff such as SMS, MMS, multimedia, and email monitoring. However, for the sake of monitoring purposes, xnspy will also track the target’s location throughout the day and present you with a map showing the location pins. The app can be set up to geofence children or employees. Trigger words can be set up, so the app will monitor all communication and alert you every time a trigger word is used. The company even offers to install the application on a target phone for you.
The company boasts “cutting-edge” features that are backed up by a live 24/7 customer support team. These features include social media app monitoring, a difficult feat since recent security updates on Android and iOS. Another feature the company proudly displays on its homepage is xnspy analytics. These are reports sent to the customer periodically that show the victim’s phone’s most visited places, most called phone numbers, and even the websites that they visit the most frequently. The website also includes testimonials and reviews by parents, employers, and business owners.
Flexispy: One of the most popular offerings on the internet, Flexispy advertises itself as “The World’s Most Powerful Monitoring Software,” and questionably claims to work on all devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. It comes with all the standard spyware features such as text and call monitoring, location tracking, and even ambient recording using the device’s microphone. Their premium package comes for $349 annually and you can even get a phone with Flexispy preinstalled from them for an additional expense.
Cocospy: Yet another app that claims to be a mobile tracking and monitoring software with the word spy in its name. While not as popular as the first two options, it does provide you with basic monitoring tools such as communication monitoring and location tracking history. It will also work on either android or iOS devices.
And the options for Android monitoring apps does not end here. With constant user privacy upgrades in Android OS every year, we see more sophisticated tracking apps than ever before. And if you do an honest comparison of well-known Android tracking apps, you’ll see that there are very few apps that are actually ahead of the curve in adopting new technologies to deliver the concerned parents and employers best value for their money.
Spot and Prevent Spyware on Your Device
While it might be hard to find actual evidence on your device or smartphone of spyware, there are some telltale signs that you may have been targeted. When it comes to spyware, it is better to practice good cybersecurity habits. This will not only protect you from spyware but other forms of cybercrime as well. To keep your device safe, you should:
- Always avoid opening links from unknown sources. Phishing is a popular way to get spyware downloaded on your device. Sometimes, the hackers will even add personalized touches to the message based on your public information to make it seem more authentic.
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Using strong passwords is a no-brainer but a lot of people still use the default passwords on their devices. Since spyware needs access to your accounts to function, changing your passwords can block that access.
- A lot of spyware apps require physical access to the phone for the installation process. Make sure to keep your devices on your person at all times. Furthermore, ensure you have a password in place for your phone lock screen. Even if your phone ends up in the possession of someone intent on installing spyware on it, it will take them a long time to crack the security password.
- Search your phone for apps that you do not recall installing. Sometimes, spyware or monitoring apps disguise themselves in your phone. If you are unfamiliar with an app, verify its authenticity or remove it.
- Check if your device has been rooted (Android) or jailbroken (iOS). This would mean that your device can have apps installed from non-official sources. If your device has been rooted or jailbroken, there is a high chance spyware might be present on it. For Android, you can install an app called RootChecker. For iOS, the app Cydia is used to install software on jailbroken phones. If you find this app on your iPhone, you might also have spyware.
- Another telltale sign that spyware might be running on your device is if the back of your phone heats up often and the battery drains fast even when the phone has not been in use. Since spyware runs in the background all the time, it can affect thermals and battery times.
- Another cause for concern is when your phone’s data usage is unusually high. Since spyware requires data usage on the device to transmit data, this can be a sure sign of foul play. Most modern devices have detailed data usage charts in the settings, showing you any spikes and what apps are using most of it.
How To Remove Spyware
If you are sure that you have been a victim of spying apps, there are some options to remove them from your phone.
- The most effective method of removing spyware from your phone is performing a factory reset. This can be done on either an Android or an iOS device. Make sure to create a backup of your important data first. Do not auto-install the same applications again. If you have access to a previous data restore point before the spyware, you can use that as well.
- If a complete factory reset is not an option, you can download any of the popular security software from trusted security companies such as Avast or Kaspersky. These spyware removal tools will scan and remove malicious applications for you. However, they do not work 100% of the time.
- Go over and review each application installed on your phone. If you notice any suspicious applications, uninstall them. Sometimes, spyware apps can hide under fake names. Flexispy, for example, uses the name SyncManager to hide on a device.
- Make sure to always update your operating system as soon as you can. Updating the OS oftentimes breaks the spy app from working properly on your device.
Max Field is a founder of recoverandroid-data.com. He is an Android lover and loves to write tips, tricks, fixes for errors, data recovery solutions and more related to Android.