Spies and FBI agents on TV are always checking their rooms for listening devices, to see if they’re being bugged. But in the real world, have you ever thought that even you could be a victim of such heart-racing espionage? With easy-to-install spyware, your phone can be turned into a surveillance device, allowing people to monitor a whole lot more than just your conversations.
Anyone can buy spyware for mobile phones and other devices. It’s advertised as a way for parents to keep track of their children or for employers to track employees, and it can be installed in less than a minute if someone has physical access to the device. But criminals can also use the same technology to track you, and they may try to trick you into installing it by disguising it as a free app or download. Once installed, spyware can allow someone to monitor and remotely use almost every feature of your phone. Here are just a few of the ways they can spy on you:
- Listening to phone conversations or using the microphone to spy when you’re not on the phone
- Using the camera to take pictures or video of what you’re doing and where you go
- Tracking the websites you visit and what you post on social media
- Recording your keystrokes to steal your account numbers and passwords
- Using the GPS to track where you go. (For instance, are you far enough from home that someone could safely break into your house.)
Here are some tips to avoid spyware:
- Never lend a stranger your phone.
- Check your privacy settings.
- Only download apps from an approved site like the Apple store or Googleplay. (This isn’t a guarantee that apps are safe, but the chances are much better.)
- Install security software for your mobile device.
- Never load freebie apps from web sites, and avoid downloading pirated movies and music because they are a favorite way for criminals to deliver spyware and other malicious software.
Finally, if you notice unusual behavior from your device, such as the battery draining faster than usual, that your settings have been changed, or a new app that suddenly appears, be sure to run good security software and see what’s happening. Unfortunately, you may have to reset your device to the factory default settings to delete the spyware, but that’s way better than letting someone eavesdrop on every aspect of your life.