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-> Published On: 13-10-2023
Unveil the Hidden Threat: How to Find Spyware on Android?
Updated · Oct 25, 2023
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Out of the 3.5 billion people who own a smartphone, more than 80% prefer using Android. However, these users are unaware that someone may be watching them while scrolling.
Spyware is a type of malware that monitors a user’s device and online activities. Without you knowing, it gathers information about you, your phone, and whatever you click on the Internet.
While it can be challenging to find spyware on Android phones, removing it is easy. Continue reading to learn how to detect, remove, and avoid spyware.
Finding Spyware From Your Android Device
Spyware is one of the prevalent cyberattack methods, affecting 8 in 10 web users. This malware runs undetected while damaging the device.
Besides corrupting the device, spyware can cause more severe harm to the phone’s owner. This hidden malware collects personal details, bank information, and other credentials. The accumulated data are sold to third parties or used in identity theft-related crimes.
Knowing how to detect spyware on Android phones is crucial. Though it can be tricky, there are symptoms that users can use to locate spyware on Android.
Here are a few signs of a potential spyware attack on an Android phone:
1. Increased battery consumption
Spyware operates while undetected to capture the device’s activity. While doing so, it uses the system's resources, making the battery drain unusually fast.
A typical Android phone lasts for around 11.5 hours. If your phone gets drained quickly (especially after charging), it might indicate spyware’s presence.
2. Persistent device overheating
Spyware uses the phone’s processing power, which causes an increase in CPU usage. This causes the phone’s CPU to overload and overheat.
3. Unusual changes and charges
Spyware on Android allows attackers to access the device remotely. They can make changes on the device, like installing apps. Attackers can also make unauthorized payments or change the victim’s device settings.
4. Suspicious credit card activities
Attackers mainly use spyware to steal data and make money from it. Once they have your personal and financial details from the spyware, cybercriminals can use your credit card to make purchases.
Warning: Banks and merchants may lose over $43 billion to credit card fraud by 2026. If you notice suspicious credit card charges, report them to the issuing bank immediately.
5. Increased data usage
Here’s a breakdown of the data usage according to usual mobile phone activities:
Spyware uses a significant amount of your phone’s data to collect and send information from the victim’s device to a third party. If your phone goes beyond the average data consumption, that can be an indication of spyware.
6. Longer shutdown and startup
Phones must shut down all running processes before turning off. Since spyware runs in the background continuously, it interferes with the shutdown process.
7. Weird noises during calls
Spyware can record calls. While recording, it can create weird background noises like taps, static noises, distant voices, echoes, or random sounds. These noises can be heard on mobile phone calls or during video conferences.
8. Slow device performance
Since spyware uses the device’s resources, it can overload your phone's memory, battery, and CPU. This degrades the device's performance and slows the responses.
Common Types of Spyware
There are different types of spyware, each with distinct behavior and characteristics. Here are 5 common types of spyware and how they affect an Android device:
1. Keyloggers or System Monitors
A keylogger tracks the victim's online activities by monitoring and capturing keystrokes when users type passcodes and credit card data into the keyboard.
Adware displays multiple annoying pop-ups on the user's device. These ads make the user’s browsing experience frustrating. Also, they can redirect users to malicious sites that carry more malware.
3. Cookie Trackers
Cookies are used by websites to track the user's online behavior and preferences for analytics and advertising. They are legal and somehow harmless.
Hackers often take advantage of cookies. However, rather than steal the cookies, spyware disguises itself as actual cookies on the web pages to collect information on the user while browsing.
4. Trojan Horse Spyware
Trojan Horse gets on the victim's device by pretending to be a legitimate app, which tricks the users into installing. It disrupts the device and steals data. This type of spyware can be acquired through phishing and malicious links in emails and websites.
5. Browser Hijackers
This type of spyware alters the internet browser parameters without the user’s consent. It usually changes the phone’s search engine and homepage to redirect users to malicious websites.
👍 Helpful Article
Browser hijackers can infect any device—even computers. A popular example of this malware is the Yahoo Search Redirect Virus, which has already damaged many devices.
Check out this article to learn the easiest methods to remove it on your Windows or Mac devices.
3 Ways to Remove Spyware on Android Phones
The longer the spyware stays in a device, the more intense its damage. After locating the spyware, removing it is the only way to stop further harm.
Take a closer look at the 3 methods to quickly remove spyware from Android devices.
Manual Removal of Spyware
Users can perform manual Android spyware removal easily. This method does not require any tool or technical knowledge, so anyone with a basic understanding of how Android settings work can do it. Here’s how:
Step 1: Enable safe mode by pressing the power button until a prompt with “ Reboot to safe mode” appears.
Step 2: Click “OK.”
Step 3: Go to Settings and tap “Apps.”
Step 4: Review the programs listed on your screen one by one. Select any suspicious app.
Step 4: Uninstall the app you selected.
✅ Pro Tip
To identify suspicious apps, look for programs with unusual symbols in their names (e.g., Ã¢Â€ÂœUninstallÃ¢Â€Â).
You can also search for the app in Google Play, review the ratings, and check for updates. If an app asks for unnecessary permissions, it can also be a suspicious app.
Removing Spyware by Factory Reset
If your attempt to remove spyware from Android does not work, try doing a factory reset. This will erase everything from the phone—including spy apps.
Here are the steps to perform a factory reset:
Step 1: Go to Settings. Choose “General management”.
Step 2: Select “Factory data reset” and tap “Reset.”
Step 3: Confirm and initiate the factory reset by encoding your phone’s PIN or password.
Step 4: The phone will restart automatically. Once it’s switched on, set up your device.
Factory reset deletes all information on the phone, including multimedia files, installed apps, and user profiles. It is highly recommended that you secure a backup before doing a full factory reset.
Using Spyware Removal Software
The fastest way to remove and locate spyware on Android is to use removal software. Users can remove and check for spyware in just a few clicks.
Follow these steps to use spyware removal software:
Step 1: Install a reputable anti-spy app for Android.
Step 2: Run a scan to check Android for spyware.
Step 3: Once identified, follow the app’s instructions to remove the threat.
Even though removing spyware from Android is easy, it is still better to avoid getting it in the first place. In the next section, discover how to protect your Android devices from spyware.
Protecting Your Android Devices From Spyware
Cybersecurity does not stop at Android spyware check or removal. Prevention is the best way to protect your phone from spyware attacks.
Here are some things you can do to protect your phone from spyware:
1. Update Software and OS Regularly
Operating System (OS) updates for mobile phones improve digital privacy, cybersecurity, and device performance.
Newer OS versions release features that enhance the security and experience. Updates also fix bugs and technical issues from the previous version.
2. Use Secure Passwords
Always use strong passwords on your social media accounts, user profiles, and apps.
Secure passwords are lengthy and include letters, symbols, and numbers. They should also have no connection to personal information, so the hackers will have a harder time cracking them.
✅ Pro Tip
Use a different password for each account. Having the same password for all your profiles is dangerous as it gives the hackers easy and direct access to everything.
3. Refrain From Opening Malicious Sites and Emails
Phishing emails were the reason behind the cyberattacks on 83% of business owners.
Since spyware is usually sent through suspicious emails, you must be cautious when opening one. Avoid clicking file attachments on emails from unknown senders.
Besides emails, you must also refrain from accessing malicious websites. These websites can install malware, steal data, or damage the device.
4. Download from Legitimate Sources
Always download files and apps from official sources to reduce the chances of getting a virus or malware. Malicious files and programs disguise themselves as legit, so verify the sources before downloading.
5. Avoid Phone Rooting or Jailbreaking
Rooting provides access to the phone's OS and subsystems, allowing users to make any changes that manufacturers forbid.
However, rooting makes the device more vulnerable to malware and hacking. Some rooting apps are malicious and can contain malware.
6. Install Secure Antivirus
Even though phones are more vulnerable to online threats, only around half of mobile users utilize antivirus apps.
It is best to have antivirus software on your phone. These apps can detect spyware on Android devices and remove it quickly.
✅ Pro Tip
Surfshark Antivirus is a good start when choosing the best antivirus app for your phone. This software is currently exclusive to Android. It scans files on schedule and even checks personal data leakage while browsing.
Cybercriminals use spyware on your Android phone to collect any data related to your identity and financials. They can exploit your credit cards or commit crimes using the data they gathered.
Always be on the lookout for signs of spyware on your Android phone. While removing spyware is easy, keeping your device protected at all times is still best.
What do spyware apps look like on Android?
Spyware on Android phones disguises itself as software updates with names such as App Updates, System App Updates, or Android Update Intelligence.
What is the code to see if your phone is being tracked?
Dialing *#21# helps you determine if your messages or calls are being diverted. This number also lets you check if your data, voice, fax, sync, async, packet access, and call forwarding are enabled or disabled.
How can I find a hidden device administrator in Android?
You need a third-party tool like hidden device admin detection to scan and identify any hidden device administrator.
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