Digital technology is a rapid-growth area, and we increasingly rely on it to plan and organize our lives. Our smartphones, desktops, tablets, and laptops hold information about family, friends, events, and even likes and dislikes. Personal data can be used for fraud, identity theft, stalking, and other criminal activities in the wrong hands.
Spy apps can have a practical purpose, for example, monitoring the online activities of loved ones to keep them safe. However, spy apps can also have a more sinister purpose, and these are the ones we want to avoid. Spy apps, by nature, are hidden from the target, so we want to ensure that you know how to find hidden spy apps on your phone.
What Is Spyware and How Does It Work?
Spyware is a generic term for computer software installed onto a device to collect information about that computer and its use. The accumulated data is then sent via the internet over to a third party who can view it remotely.
Spyware is usually installed by a third party who has a reason for wanting the information they collect. For example, businesses want information on your shopping habits for targeted advertising; investigators want the personal information that might result in an arrest, and fraudsters want sensitive personal and financial data for theft and scams.
With the development of smartphones, there are so many more ways that spyware can be downloaded onto our phones, knowingly or secretly. It can ‘piggyback’ on software we’ve chosen to download, be part of something we’ve ‘agreed’ to by ticking a box in the small print, or discreetly downloaded as a phone spy app hidden in the workings of the device.
Just as developers have created hidden spy apps for your phone, others have produced anti-spyware software designed to find spy apps on your phone.
Read on to learn more about popular hidden apps that spy on you, how you can detect them, and ways to get rid of them.
Popular Types of Spyware
Depending on the purpose an individual has for installing spyware will influence the type of spyware used. Some popular kinds of spyware to look out for are –
- Keyloggers – This type of spy app records the keystrokes made on a computer keyboard and is increasingly popular in parental control spy apps.
- Modem Hijackers – These were more popular in the days of dial-up modems rather than the broadband we use now. The user would be encouraged to click on a pop-up leading to a file download which would subsequently take control of the modem.
- Banker Trojans – As the name suggests, Banker Trojans access sensitive financial information and passwords, modify online banking pages and interfere with monetary transactions.
- Infostealers – Infostealers are precisely that – information thieves. They target and steal personal and sensitive information like passwords, usernames, browser history, email addresses, etc.
- Password Stealers – A type of infostealer, these are explicitly designed to steal passwords by attaching themselves to your browser.
Popular Hidden Spy Apps
Spyware is big business these days. Developers of spy apps and antivirus software constantly battle to stay ahead of each other with the most up-to-date technological advancements.
It’s not just the criminal world that wants your personal information. Parents, employers, and people in romantic relationships are increasingly using spyware to monitor their children’s activities, employees’ working hours, and spouses’ activities.
Provided you have access to a target device, modern spy apps are easy to install and come loaded with monitoring features at affordable prices. Check out some examples of popular hidden spy apps here.
- SpyStealth – a modern spy app with all the most up-to-date features aimed at the parental control market.
- Snoopza – a phone tracking spy app with a basic free price plan among the subscriptions it offers.
- Flexispy – powerful spy software to monitor computers, phones, and tablets from wherever you are.
How to Prevent Your Phone from Getting Spyware?
There is some basic security that you can put in place to prevent a spy app on your phone in the first place!
- Set your device to lock automatically and use strong passwords. Biometric passwords are recommended if possible.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi services. Delete any Wi-Fi connections that aren’t in use.
- Keep a physical hold of your phone. Don’t let anyone else have possession of it.
- Disable your location services when you don’t need them.
- Don’t root or jailbreak your device, making it more vulnerable to spyware.
- Don’t open emails, links, or messages from unknown sources.
- Pop-ups are often malicious. Don’t click on them; close all your applications if one appears.
- Install an anti-spyware app on your phone.
For more information, check out the National Security Agency website.
Warning Signs of Spyware
As well as taking measures to prevent apps to spy on phone devices, it’s helpful to know what the warning signs are to tell you if you’re being tracked.
- Have you heard any strange sounds while on a call with someone? Yes, then someone may be listening in.
- Does your battery power drain much more quickly than it used to? Spy apps are constantly running in the background and are a permanent drain on batteries.
- Are you having difficulties turning off your phone? This might be due to additional software still running in the background.
- Is there unexplained activity on your phone? Contacts might have disappeared from your lists. Your phone might restart without your input. Websites you previously visited might now be inaccessible. These are signs that someone may be tampering with your phone’s functions.
- Does your phone overheat? Permanent background activity from hidden spy apps puts additional strain on the device, causing it to heat up.
If you have left your phone unattended, downloaded anything you aren’t sure of, clicked on any pop-ups or links, etc., it’s worth being alert to any changes that could indicate a spy app on your phone. Investigate for peace of mind.
How to Find Hidden Spy Apps on Your Phone
We know how to prevent them and recognize warning signs that we have them, but we need to know how to find spy apps on your phone if we suspect them.
The bottom line is that you need to know your way around your phone! A bit of basic housekeeping goes a long way.
Here are some tips on where to look to find spy apps on your phone.
- Check through the apps on your phone regularly. Remember to go through folders too. Are there any apps you don’t recognize or remember downloading? Consider uninstalling those you haven’t used in a while.
- Scroll through your permissions. Default permissions are generally switched on, but not all apps need access to your camera, microphone, location, etc.
- To find hidden spy apps on Android, check Google Play Protect in your Play Store. Its default position is always on, so if you check and it’s turned off, someone may have tampered with your phone’s settings. Perform a scan while you’re there, just to be sure.
- Look through Hidden Purchases and your iPhone App Library to find hidden spy apps on iPhone. If you’re still not sure you’ve seen everything, another way to find spy app on iPhone is to Reset Home Screen Layout. All your app folders will disappear, and all apps, including hidden spy apps, will be revealed.
How to Remove Spyware from Your iPhone or Android Phone
Your first question was, “How to find spy apps on my phone?”
Oh no, you’ve found them!
Your next question will naturally be, “How to remove spy apps from my phone?”
- Manually remove the spy apps yourself.
You’ll need to have some ‘phone know-how’ to do this as it involves rebooting your phone into safe mode to find spy apps and uninstall them.
Uninstalling the app can be tricky if it has device administrator permissions, which will prevent you from uninstalling the app unless you can deactivate them.
Once you have succeeded, it’s usually worth performing an antivirus scan and resetting your password and other security features.
- Factory reset your phone.
A factory reset will delete everything on your phone, including spyware. It will return to the default settings of a new/unused phone. Therefore, whatever your phone’s make and model, for example, Samsung, Nokia, Windows, or Cricket cell phones, you must perform a pre-spyware backup of your phone, or you will lose all your personal information and photos.
- Use purpose spyware removal tools.
As we said at the beginning, where there is spyware, there will be spyware detection and removal tools. Professional spyware detection software, for example, Avast and Malwarebytes, will trawl through your phone, finding and deleting any malicious spyware. This is probably the easiest option, but it will likely incur some costs.
Where there is technology, there will always be those who want to take advantage of it for undesirable and criminal purposes.
Make sure you know the signs that spyware has infected your device so that you can take steps to remove it and protect your personal and private information.
Better still, install anti-virus software from the start, which will do all the hard work for you.
Read also: Top 5 Apps to Spy on Your Boyfriend’s Phone