How to Find and Locate Spyware On Android
Table of Contents
- By David Lukic
- Oct 14, 2020
The idea of personal privacy and security is a fallacy these days. There is nowhere safe from hackers, as evidenced by the daily news of data breaches. Many of us falsely believe that our cell phones are exempt from hacking, spyware, ransomware, and viruses; nothing could be further from the truth, which is why spyware removal is considered to be very important!
The Android platform is very popular in America and even more so in Europe and other countries. It is noted for its clean design, customization abilities, and ease of use. However, like any other operating system, Android is vulnerable to hacking, malicious programs, and spyware. Since most of us have our entire lives stored on our cell phones, including access to bank accounts, contacts, photos, and other personal or sensitive data, it is critical that they remain safe at all times.
No one likes to think that someone is spying on them, whether it is the government, the local hacker, or a spouse. One way that people stay safe when using mobile devices is with a VPN. These Virtual Private Networks mask your location and online activities so that no one can trace them back to you and makes it difficult to for spyware to track you locate spyware on android.
What is Spyware?
Any software that quietly tracks your activity and collects information is spyware. Stolen information frequently includes shopping habits, personal identifiers, app usage, and login credentials.
Spyware is often installed without the user’s knowledge but isn’t always done without their permission. For example, people who agree to long-winded user agreements (aka everyone) without thoroughly reading the document will unknowingly consent to the practice.
More malicious spyware exists in the form of automatically downloaded malware. Android phones are infected when owners click dangerous links or download unverified applications.
Is Spyware Legal?
Despite how it sounds, spyware isn’t inherently illegal. The programs are baked into many of your favorite apps. Legitimate businesses use spyware to fine-tune their marketing strategies toward your demographic.
More polite applications may ask users if they can collect information to “improve their app for your experience.” Others sneakily bury the question in page 9 of a 19-page user agreement. Both these methods are perfectly legal because we say yes.
However, most people aren’t concerned about times when we’re asked permission. They’re worried about the following cases:
- The program never asked for permission.
- The program lied about collection methods or use.
- The program was installed against the user’s will or without their knowledge.
These are all unlawful uses of spyware under The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Developers and individuals who use these methods are typically selling information to cybercriminals. The good news is that there are clear markers of spyware on your Android device.
How to Locate Spyware on Android
If you wake up one morning and your home page settings on your Android browser have changed, you may you see a lot of pop-ups and suspicious browser activity like redirects, your Android device is probably infected with Adware. If this is the case for you, you should, without hesitation, search how to find spyware on android and try to fix the problem.
Unknown Errors and Problems
The most noticeable indicator of spyware is a sudden decrease in your phone’s performance. Glitches in the user interface, crashes, and overheating are strong signs of a problem. It’s easy to mistakenly attribute performance issues to an aging device, but don’t.
Spikes in Data Usage
If you’ve gone multiple years using only a few gigabytes of data a month, you should take note of sudden upticks. It could mean more than a growing dependence on your favorite sites. Spyware requires an online connection to send information back to the hacker, so it inevitably increases your data usage.
This trend goes unnoticed because most people don’t track their month-to-month activity. Instead of constantly checking your data, use it as a way to confirm spyware if you notice any of the other signs on this list.
On the other hand, you could also limit the danger of spyware by limiting your Android device’s access to the internet.
Decrease in Battery Life
If your battery life indicator is racing to empty, your Android phone may be infected. Spyware works hard behind the scenes. This means that it’s using a lot of your phone’s power but will only show up as a background process.
Try closing all of the applications on your phone and leave it alone for a while. If your battery is still draining like an unclogged tub, then you’ll need to do a thorough sweep.
Noise in Your Calls
Phones these days have highly advanced speakers and microphones. It’s unlikely you’ll get a ton of static or background noise when making calls. Spyware programs can tap your calls which results in frequent static and clicking sounds. Rather than blame the person on the other end, you should end the call immediately and search your phone for unknown apps.
Some other signs you might have spyware are a fast battery drain. You may hear strange noises during phone calls. Another sign is that the phone randomly reboots or shuts down for no reason. If your data usage mysteriously increases or you receive unusual text messages, those are other signs of a spyware infection. If your phone makes noise when it is not in use or slow to respond when using it, these are also some signs of an infection. If all of this is happening to you, do not worry, continue reading this article for spyware removal and to learn how to find hidden spyware on Android.
Applications that Contained Spyware
The Google Play store does a pretty decent job at vetting its selection, but bad seeds sometimes slip through. In some cases, a good apple suddenly goes bad, and a new update introduces spyware.
There are 32 app categories in the store, and illegal spyware attempts have undoubtedly crept into each one. However, some are worse off than others. Here are our picks for the apps that are most guilty of allowing spyware into your phone.
Third-Party Weather Apps
Millions of people roll out of bed and check the weather every morning. If you’re not using Android’s official weather app, there’s a good chance you’re being spied on.
Weather apps are notoriously easy to create. Each one is just a regurgitation of a few global sources with a new paint job. More importantly, they’re also a favorite among spyware scammers since it’s natural for a weather app to demand your location.
It’s not so bad if all the app asks for is your location. However, third-party weather apps hide behind location requests to ask for more. They ask to use your camera, microphone, and speakers to enable different functions that standard weather apps don’t have or need.
These functions have no connection to the app and are a ruse to spy on you before selling your data to brokers, legitimate and not.
WhatsApp is an increasingly popular messaging app for both professional and social use. Like most communication platforms, it offers phone calls, video calls, and location pinning. These functions require the app to access parts of your Android that are often used in spyware.
The Financial Times broke the news that hackers had a way to install spyware directly onto iPhone and Android devices through WhatsApp. The vulnerability was glaring, and the only prerequisite for it was knowing the victim’s phone number and making a call.
An Israeli-based group called NSO created the software and dubbed it Pegasus. After invading a phone, Pegasus extracted text messages, emails, location, search history, online activity, and even allowed access to the phone’s microphone and camera.
The most dangerous part of this spyware breach is that it was a “no click” attack. A WhatsApp user didn’t need to interact with the call for the attack to work. The user could ignore it completely and the spyware would still forcibly install.
WhatsApp has since fixed the vulnerability. However, with cyberattacks constantly evolving, who’s to know when the next vulnerability will be found?
CamScanner is an old, third-party camera that offered features that standard Android cameras lacked, namely face scanning capabilities. Initial readings of the application’s code found no malicious components.
However, the Google Play team doesn’t have the manpower or resources to comb through every update of every app on their platform. So, CamScanner slipped a Trojan Dropper into the app’s advertising library.
A Trojan Dropper (Trojan-Dropper.AndroidOS.Necro.n) is a virus that sometimes comes preinstalled on Chinese devices. The dropper extracted encrypted files from CamScanner that downloaded an increasing number of malicious files. The result was a web of malware that could initiate paid subscriptions without the user’s knowledge.
The Trojan Dropper is no longer a part of CamScanner’s code. But it’s hard to tell when a new update will put you in danger once again.
How to Remove Spyware from Android Phone
How to Check for Spyware
Spyware is much more dangerous because it monitors your activities and can access all your personal and private data on your phone, including eavesdropping on your SMS and MMS messages.
Sometimes an employer will install a form of spyware on your phone. Other times it might be a parent wanting to monitor your whereabouts or a romantic partner who suspects you of cheating. You may also unwittingly download spyware from an infected website and not even know it; now, a stranger has access to all your stuff, and can use your information for identity theft. Spyware removal is considerably more difficult compared to other malware, but this does not mean there is no solution for it.
Types of Spyware on Android
- Although relatively new, PhoneSpector is a powerful spying app that hackers may use to monitor all areas of the phone, and it can even restore deleted text messages.
- Auto Forward is easy to use for the non-tech user who wants to monitor someone’s activities like a mother with her teenage children.
- Highster Mobile has apps for both Android and iPhone, and it is powerful and excels at tracking browser history and text messages.
These are just some of the apps available on the Google Play store and private download sites. It may be hard to tell that you are being monitored because many of these programs work silently in the background.
How to Detect Spyware on Android Phone
If you find that your Android device starts acting strangely or buggy, you may be infected with spyware. It is actually not that difficult to discover and remove spyware from your Android device. If you recently downloaded any files, images, etc., try deleting them first to see if it restores the phone to working order.
Use a file manager to inspect the Apps folder and look for any files you do not recognize and delete them immediately.
How to Remove Spyware from Phone
You can check for installed spyware programs by following the steps below:
- Go to Settings.
- Choose Apps or Applications.
- Click the three vertical dots menu.
- Click “Show System Apps” to show all installed programs.
- Review all the programs, and if you find any that you do not recognize, investigate what they do and what they are for. Uninstall anything you feel uncomfortable about.
Check your download folder for any suspicious-looking files. If, after taking the steps above, you don’t feel secure enough that you got it all, you can install a spyware cleaner from a reputable source and use that. It is always a good idea to keep a security program like Avast, Bitdefender, or Kaspersky running on your Android device at all times to keep the hackers out. You might also consider a VPN to tighten the security on your Android phone and enhance your privacy that way.