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Top 10 Spy Apps

Top 10 Spy Apps – A security vulnerability in one of the largest consumer-grade spyware operations today is putting the personal phone data of nearly 400,000 people at risk, a number that is growing daily. The operation, identified by , is run by a small crew of Vietnamese developers but has yet to resolve security issues.

In this case it’s not just a problematic spyware app. It’s a whole fleet of apps — Copy9, MxSpy, TheTruthSpy, iSpyoo, SecondClone, TheSpyApp, ExactSpy, FoneTracker and GuestSpy — that share the same security vulnerability.

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But without a fix in place, specific details about the vulnerability cannot be revealed because of the risk that hundreds of thousands of people’s phones have been unknowingly compromised.

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With no expectation that the vulnerability will be fixed anytime soon, this guide can help you remove these specific spyware apps from your Android phone — if you believe it’s safe to do so.

Consumer-grade spyware apps are often sold under the guise of child tracking software but are also known as “stalkerware” for their ability to track and monitor partners or spouses without their consent. These apps are downloaded from outside of Google Play’s app store, installed on a phone without a person’s permission, and designed to disappear from the home screen to avoid detection. You may notice that your phone is acting abnormally, or running warmer or slower than usual, even when you’re not actively using it.

Because this fleet of stalkerware apps relies on abusing built-in Android features that employers commonly use to remotely manage their employees’ work phones, checking whether your Android device has been compromised can be done quickly and easily.

Before you proceed, have a safety plan. The Coalition Against Stalkerware provides advice and guidance for victims and survivors of stalkerware. Spyware is designed to remain hidden, but remember that removing spyware from your phone will alert the person who installed it, which can create an unsafe situation.

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Note that this guide only removes the spyware app, it does not delete the data already collected and uploaded to the server. Also, some versions of Android may have slightly different menu options. Follow these steps at your own risk.

Google Play Protect is one of the best protections to protect against malicious Android apps, both from third-party and app stores. But when switched off, those protections are off and stalkerware or malware can be installed on devices outside of Google Play. That’s why this stalkerware network asks the infected person to disable Google Play Protect before it works.

Check your Google Play Protect settings via the Google Play app and make sure it’s enabled and a scan has been completed recently.

Stalkerware relies on deep access to your device and its data, and it often abuses Android’s accessibility features which, by design, require extensive access to the operating system and its data for screen readers and other accessibility features to work. . If you don’t recognize a downloaded service in Accessibility Options, you may want to remove it Many stalkerware apps are disguised as plain apps called “Accessibility” or “Device Health”.

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The accessibility features of Device Manager options are similar to Android but have even broader access. These device admin options are designed for companies to use to remotely manage their employees’ phones, disable features, and wipe data to prevent data loss. But they allow stalkerware apps to record screens and snoop on device owners.

An unrecognized item in your device’s Admin app settings is a common indicator of phone compromise Image credit:

Most people won’t have a Device Admin app on their personal phone, so be aware if you see an app you don’t recognize, named something like “System Services,” “Device Health,” or “Device Admin.”

You may not see home screen icons for any of these stalkerware apps, but they may still appear in your Android device’s app list. Go to your Android settings, then look at your apps. Look for an app with a simple-looking icon like “Device Health” or “System Services” with an innocuous name. These apps will have extensive access to your calendar, call logs, camera, contacts and location

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If you see an app here that you don’t recognize or haven’t installed, you can press Uninstall. Note that this will likely alert the person who planted the stalkerware that the app is no longer installed.

If your phone is infected with stalkerware, there is a good chance that your phone will be unlocked, unprotected or guess or learn your screen lock. A strong lock screen password can help protect your phone from stalkers. You should protect your email and other online accounts using two-factor authentication wherever possible.

If you or someone you know needs help, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) offers free, confidential support 24/7 to victims of domestic abuse and violence. If you are in an emergency, call 911. The Alliance Against Stalkerware also has resources if you think your phone has been compromised by spyware. You can contact this reporter on Signal and WhatsApp at +1 646-755-8849 or by email at zack.whittaker@ Aida Alami was always wary of surveillance As a journalist in Morocco, a state with a track record of intercepting phone calls and messages from political rivals, activists and journalists, he habitually took precautions to protect his sources. He avoided using specific keywords and full names in his communications and conducted interviews through Signal, a messaging app that encrypts all content before it leaves the phone. “For a while, we felt really safe in Signal,” he told the Committee to Protect Journalists in an interview.

That sense of security from using end-to-end encryption evaporated in 2019, when WhatsApp-owned Facebook disclosed a vulnerability that allowed hackers to infiltrate smartphones simply by calling someone through the messaging app, without clicking on the target. Moroccan authorities allegedly exploited the now-patched flaw to gain secret access to the phones of journalists and activists, including 2003 International Press Freedom Award winner Abubakar Jamai.

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Like Signal, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption to scramble all calls, messages, audio, photos and video both in transmission as well as on the company’s servers – an important security feature that prevents governments from intercepting or subpoenaing communications. However, Facebook’s disclosures show that surveillance software can be inserted into any phone through an app.

It was then that Alami realized that all the precautions he had taken were now obsolete. “It was really scary,” she said.

Since then, Alami has continued to write and report for The New York Times and other publications. But working under the constant threat of surveillance made his job more difficult. “I know for a fact that a lot of people are afraid to talk to me,” he said. “Many people are afraid to write to me, they are afraid that my phone will be seen. What happens is that you are just paranoid all the time. You assume someone else is reading your conversation.”

There is nothing new about governments or criminal groups spying on journalists or activists they fear may expose or discredit them. But the development of high-tech “zero-click” spyware — the kind that takes over a phone without a user’s knowledge or interaction — poses an existential crisis for journalism and the future of press freedom around the world.

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In interviews with journalists, technology experts, and press freedom advocates in multiple countries, the Committee to Protect Journalists () found that fear of surveillance extends far beyond those able to prove intrusion into their phones. These attacks – or the mere possibility of them – have already had a chilling effect on sources, who fear that their conversations with journalists could lead to retaliation from the authorities. Many journalists said they were concerned not only for their personal safety, but for the friends and families of those who might be targeted along with them. Newsroom leaders talk about taking extra security precautions when discussing coverage plans. The awareness that any journalist could be tapped without their knowledge created a deep sense of powerlessness that led many to leave the profession – or even enter it to begin with. “Violence against journalists is on the rise,” said John Scott-Relton, senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab. “So are digital threats. The loss of equipment like Pegasus is contributing to the increase in violence.”

Pegasus, a product of Israeli firm NSO Group, is perhaps the best-known mobile surveillance program. Like other spyware, it works by impersonating a smartphone, but gives the intruder essentially free rein on the device – access to its microphone and camera, any files or photos stored on the phone, any network connections, contact information, messages and browsing history. , passwords, email accounts, recordings and more. Buyers can listen to conversations — even those via encrypted messaging apps like Signal — all without the owner

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