Is your smartphone spying on you? Privacy and security experts say that it could be…

I’ve posted links on Facebook & Twitter in the past, as well as a blog post here and there about privacy and security as it applies to smartphone and mobile computer users.

Did you know that for just a few dollars an app can be  purchased, and even installed remotely in some cases on a smart phone that will allow the phone itself to be used as a spy tool?

One of the “best” apps available (and most expensive to purchase) for Android and (jailbroken) Apple phones allows:

  • Remote installation (you don’t have to have access to the phone to install it)
  • Remotely wake up a phone that is “off”
  • Auto-reinstall upon reload of OS
  • Complete stealthing (almost impervious to detection)
  • Turn on the camera (front or rear facing)
  • Turn on the microphone (monitor anything said in a room)
  • Access GPS (see where the phone is)
  • Eavesdrop on phone conversations (both sides)
  • Eavesdrop on Skype and other video conferencing (both sides)
  • Enable keystroke logging (everything typed is viewable)
  • URL logging (where the phone owner has browsed to is viewable

In addition to those features it can do some other interesting things….

  • If a phone wanders outside of a defined area, alert the person watching
  • If the phone exceeds a set maximum mile-per-hour, alert the person watching
  • If the phone is called or texts a particular number/s, alert the person watching
  • If the phone is used to call or text a particular number/s, alert the person watching
  • Record conversations and upload (non-real-time access and archiving)
  • Record random camera shots (time-lapse of what phone sees)
  • Full remote access, to allow browsing files and installing additional apps

The same tools are available for computers and can be used on tablets, notebooks and even desktops.

What are some signs that your phone or computer may have monitoring software installed on it?

  • Slow internet access
  • Random reboots
  • Camera doesn’t respond when you want it to
  • GPS may indicate it is in use and tools like Waze may not be able to access it
  • WiFi may turn on and off randomly
  • GPS may turn on and off randomly
  • Echos on your phone conversations
  • Phone turns on automatically, even if turn it off or on timed shutdown
  • Emails and text messages may show as being read
  • After reinstallation of phone OS, issues begin again
  • Data usage seems higher than it should (maxing out your data plan)

What can you do about this? How can you remove smart phone spy software?

This can be a tough one! Many people have reported having their phone wiped and reloaded only gave them a short period of time before the software was reinstalled (remember, it can do it automatically and can be pushed to the phone remotely in some cases).

Can you buy a new phone and get away from it? In some cases, yes… But in others, if the person applying the software still has access to the phone physically, or knows the number, they could reinstall the software.

A good option might be to change platforms (If you are on IOS, go to Android, or vice-versa) so the person at least has to buy a new version of the software.

Changing your phone number can help. But only if the person doing the spying does not know your phone number. There are other ways for them to find you too, but I won’t get into that here.

Installing quality mobile anti-virus can help keep you from getting the software installed in the first place.

Worst case scenario?  Turn off the data plan on your phone.  How inconvenient!

How does it get installed remotely?

The person who wishes to monitor you can send you a text message, picture message, or an HTML link and once you visit that link, it can install the software and you will not even be alerted to that fact. Some anti-virus like Trend Micro’s mobile security product can detect that attempt and alert you.

How does it get installed locally?

Anyone who can access your phone for just a minute can visit the download link of the spy software and install it on your phone. After it is active, there are no traces for you to see (other than the potential for the symptoms listed above).

Use of a PIN or locking code that only you know can reduce the likelihood of that happening.

Isn’t this illegal?

Of course it is, but the majority of people would never suspect it, and if they do and actually FIND the spy software, tracing it back to the person who is doing the spying could prove extremely difficult, especially if they use proxies and other means for hiding their activities.

If you need help in your Upstate or Greenville, SC business regarding mobile computing or smart phone security, Homeland Secure IT may be able to help. Call us today at 864.990.4748 or use our CONTACT form…   You might want to do it from a land line, far away from the suspicious cell phone if you wish to avoid alerting them.

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