Have an unshakable feeling that someone is tracking your whereabouts and conversations via your cell phone? Given the ease of use and access to spyware tools these days, coupled with your involvement in a hostile situation (divorce, child custody or partnership split), you just might be right. Know what to look for and what to do.
Access is key
Since installing tracking apps and spyware requires physical access to your phone, the easiest way to prevent these mobile intrusions is to keep your phone secure. Obviously, though, you can’t take your phone everywhere – you have to shower sometime – make sure you set a PIN to your phone – and make it a difficult one (no birthdays, addresses, anniversaries, etc.).
Has your iPhone been “jailbroken”?
In order to install tracking or spyware to your iPhone, a process called “jailbreaking” is required to bypass Apple’s strict security. The person tracking you may have been in a rush and they might not have deleted jailbreaking apps, the most commonly used are: Cydia, Icy, Installer, Installous and SBSettings. Simply swipe right on your home screen to search your phone, as they won’t necessarily show up with an app icon.
Check your bills
If there’s a tracking app or spyware on your phone, it will more than likely contain a GPS aspect to it which would send your data usage through the roof. Check your bill for a spike in this usage.
Signs you may have tracking apps or spyware installed
There are tell-tale signs that your phone might be tracking you without your knowledge, such as:
- Does the battery run down a lot quicker than it should, and stay warm even when idle?
- Does it stay lit when you try to turn the screen off, or light up when you’re not doing anything?
- Is it slower running apps than normal?
- Are there unfamiliar applications running in the background?
- Does it take forever to shut down?
Don’t ignore odd messages
If you receive a text message full of what looks like computer code, or garbled numbers, it is possible it’s an ‘instruction’ message sent by the remote controller of the tracking software on your phone; the spyware works by receiving such messages and although they are meant to go unnoticed, may sometimes appear in your inbox.
How to remove tracking apps and spyware
Keep your phone’s software up to date, use anti-malware software and delete anything suspicious. But the only sure way is to do a full backup to your computer, reset your phone to factory settings and then reinstall everything one by one, making sure to only reinstall apps you know and trust.
If you’re using an iPhone that you suspect has been jailbroken, upgrade to the latest version of iOS as this will reverse the jailbreak and remove the malignant software – just make sure you’re backed up first.
Finally, run one of the below top five (as determined by Lifehacker) malware removal products:
- Spybot Search & Destroy (Windows, Freeware)
- SUPERAntiSpyware (Windows, $30)
- ComboFix (Windows, Freeware)
- Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware (Windows, $25)
- HijackThis (Windows, Freeware)
(They are found on CNet and, reviewed there as well.)
The bottom line is situational awareness. If you are in the process of a divorce, business partnership split-up, other litigation, etc. believe that someone will try to get an inside peek into your life. Remain vigilant.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.