Unlike in movies, spyware in real life has mostly bad intentions. It’s not a tool used to spy on enemies or the villain on a show. Spyware is malicious software that infiltrates a device of an individual without their knowledge.
Smartphones are the most commonly used device by everyone. In fact, most internet activities, from social media to online searches, happen on a smartphone. However, despite the daily use of smartphones, people spend less time learning how they can protect their devices.
The only time one protects their device is when they become a victim of a cybercrime.
The first step to avoiding spyware attacks is by learning about them. Educating yourself about spyware can help you detect if it’s present. It also gives you the upper hand, as you can keep your devices safe from their attacks.
Unlike other malware, spyware is an extremely dangerous cyber threat. It takes weeks or even a month before one can detect if it is present. They work silently in the background, avoiding ways for it to be detected.
Therefore, it’s better to prevent the threat than trying to salvage your smartphone from the attack.
But before you can keep your smartphone safe, here’s what you need to know if your device gets infected by spyware.
What Does Spyware Do to Your Smartphone?
Spyware often tries to peek at the victim’s data and activities. Often this spyware is unauthorized, making them malicious spyware.
Spyware threats can infiltrate devices by clicking on a malicious website, installing an infected app, or downloading a file. Once the spyware gets access to the device, it can perform various actions. It can monitor the keystroke or keyboard activities. Hence, it sees everything you type, including your password. Or, it can capture the screen or turn on the webcam.
Everything stolen by the cybercriminal will be used by them, or they’ll sell to a third party.
Hackers can steal anything when using a malicious spyware program. It can get your login credentials, PINs, credit and debit card numbers, browsing activity, and email addresses.
You can lose money on your bank or your identity when spyware hackers get access to your information.
How to Detect Spyware Threats on Smartphones?
Although spyware is good at hiding, sometimes there are some telltale signs of their presence on your device.
Presence of Suspicious Apps
Check on your smartphone’s app and see which one looks new to you. Although the presence or absence of an app is not 100% guaranteed, you still need to check on them.
Some spyware threats that are good at hiding behind other apps are those found on parental control or family tracking software.
Rooted or Jailbroken Smartphones
You can get more apps to your mobile device if you root your Android or jailbreak your iPhone. It gives you the option to install apps outside of your app store.
If your phone is rooted or broken, it allows the installation from unknown sources. If you didn’t root or jailbreak your device, it indicates that something is going on without your permission.
Check your Android device by using the Root Checker app if your phone is rooted. Or, you can go to Settings and check the security if unknown sources have been selected.
For iPhone users, look for the app Cydia on your phone. The presence of this app indicates that your phone is jailbroken.
Drains Battery Fast
If you notice a sudden change in your battery life, there could be spyware on your device. Although, you have to check what causes the battery to drain. Remember that smartphone batteries degrade over time, so a slow deterioration might mean there’s a problem with the battery. Or, some apps are power-hungry. You can check that on your smartphone’s settings.
Meanwhile, spyware makes sudden changes. Since it works 24/7, it can drain the battery faster than usual.
Since spyware threats run in the background 24/7, it can cause overheating of a device. Even when you are not using your phone, spyware can cause your device to heat up.
Together with overheating of your device, there is a slowing down on its performance.
But spyware on your phone is not the only reason why it’s overheating. Some power-hungry apps can cause heating of your device too.
Receiving odd messages like codes you don’t understand can be indicative of the presence of spyware. Traditional spyware apps send and communicate via text messages.
You can also check your outgoing messages. The presence of messages you didn’t send can mean something. Spyware hackers used to send messages to acquire data from the mobile device to their base.
Some spyware can even take a picture, wipe your SD, and do other malicious activities on your phone.
High Data Usage
Smartphones that use a high amount of data can mean something is running in the background. Spyware requires sending information to its base. Therefore, it uses plenty of data and resources of the device.
If you want to be sure the high data usage is caused by spyware, you need to eliminate some factors. Even legitimate apps can consume a lot of data on your device.
For Android users, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Data Usage > Mobile.
For iOS, go to Settings > click Mobile Data.
On both Android and iOS users, you can check on the individual apps and the amount of data they use on your device.
How to Remove Spyware on Your Smartphone?
When you have seen sudden changes on your phone from the list mentioned above, you might have spyware threats on your device.
Now it’s time to get rid of it.
Uninstall the App
After checking on the apps available on your device, the first thing is to try to uninstall the app.
Sometimes, some spyware hides within an app. So take note of the last app you downloaded before you detected the spyware. Uninstall that app.
Perform Factory Reset
Factory reset is often the last option. It involves resetting your device to its factory setting. It means it will get rid of all the third-party apps installed on your device. Unfortunately, in the process of resetting your phone, you delete all your information and data.
Therefore, make sure you make it a habit to back up your device every day or week. So that in cases like this, you can easily retrieve them.
How to Perform Factory Reset on an Android Device:
- Go to Settings > Systems > Reset Options
- Click on Factory Data Reset or Erase All Data
- Confirm the process by clicking on Reset Device
- Input your device’s PIN or password.
- Select from a backup or start from nothing.
How to Perform Factory Reset on an iPhone:
- Go to Settings > General
- Scroll to Reset
- Click on Erase All Content and Settings
- Confirm the process.
Update Your Smartphone’s System
Sometimes spyware can enter your device’s system by exploiting vulnerabilities. That’s why developers provide updates to their systems. It is to patch the software of any weaknesses.
When you update your phone, the latest operating system will take over the old and remove any malware or spyware in the system.
Make sure to back up your device. So when you update your phone, you can still have the content you need. Just don’t use the backup from the time your device is infected by malware.
Use a Spyware Removal Tool
If you don’t want to reset your device, use a spyware removal tool to remove the threat and traces on your device. Just make sure you download a legitimate app because most spyware is embedded on antivirus app tools.
Here’s a list of spyware removal tools you can use for your device.
Remove the Spyware Manually
Although manually removing spyware is tedious, it’ll pay off in the end.
- Place your phone in its safe mode to prevent apps from running. Hold the phone’s power button until you see the options, Power Off and Restart.
- Long press on the Power Off, then select Reboot to Safe Mode > click OK.
- Your phone will display the words Safe Mode on the lower-left corner of your screen.
- Go to Settings > App or App & Notifications
- Look through the list of apps you don’t recognize.
- Tap Uninstall to remove the app you don’t know.
- If the app cannot be uninstalled, it means that the administrator’s permission is prevented.
- Remove the permission by going to the Settings > Security > Advanced > Device Administrators.
- Uncheck the box of the malicious app > click Deactivate this Device Admin App.
- Go back and uninstall the app.
- Restart the device and check your phone.
After removing the spyware threat, keep your smartphone safe by following these steps.
How to Keep Your Smartphone Safe from Spyware?
- Secure your device with a PIN or password. Leaving your phone with no physical security can provide someone with the opportunity to install spyware on your device.
- Install security software on your smartphone. It should have an anti-spyware or anti-malware property.
- Activate two-factor authentication on all your accounts.
- Don’t give permissions to apps if it looks suspicious.
- Do not root or jailbreak your phone.
- Avoid clicking on links or downloading unknown files.
- Backup phone daily.
- Update system and apps
Avoiding spyware is not 100% preventable. But it lowers the chances of becoming infected with such a threat. It’s not easy to get rid of spyware threats once it infects your smartphone. So, get to know what spyware is and how you can prevent them on your smartphone.
Here is an article we made on how to prevent spyware attacks on your computer device.