Your Android phone could have stalkerware — here's how to remove it | TechCrunch

Your Android phone could have stalkerware — here's how to remove it | TechCrunch

Consumer-grade spyware apps Secret and continuous monitoring of your private messages, photos, phone calls and real-time location is a growing problem for Android users.

This guide can help you identify and remove common surveillance apps from your Android phone, including TheTruthSpy, Kids Guard And Other apps.

Read our exclusive investigation

Consumer-grade spyware apps are often sold under the guise of child monitoring or family tracking software, but because of their ability to track and monitor partners or spouses without their consent, they are called ” Called “stalkerware” and “spozware”. These are spyware apps. Downloaded from outside. Google Play's app store, installed on a phone without a person's permission and often disappear from the home screen to avoid detection.

Stalkerware apps rely on abusing built-in Android features commonly used by companies to remotely manage their employees' work phones or using Android's accessibility mode to spy on someone's device. do

You may notice that your phone is acting abnormally, running warmer or slower than usual, or using large amounts of network data, even when you're not actively using it. I am

Checking to see if your Android device has been compromised can be done quickly and easily.

Before you begin

It's important to have a backup plan and reliable support if you need it. Keep in mind that removing spyware from your phone will likely alert the person who installed it, which can create an unsafe situation. gave Coalition Against Stalkerware Offers advice and guidance for victims and survivors of stalkerware.

Note that this guide only helps you identify and remove spyware apps, it does not delete the data that was already collected and uploaded to its servers. Also, menu options may be slightly different in some versions of Android. As is standard with any advice, you follow these steps at your own risk.

Check your Google Play Protect settings.

Make sure Google Play Protect, a security feature in Android phones, is enabled. Image credit: Tech Crunch

Google Play is protected. One of the best security measures to protect against malicious Android apps By screening apps downloaded from Google's App Store and external sources for signs of potentially malicious activity. Those protections stop working when Play Protect is turned off. It is important to make sure that Play Protect is turned on to ensure that it is working and scanning for harmful apps.

You can check that Play Protect is enabled through the settings of the Play Store app. You can also scan for malicious apps, if a scan hasn't already been done.

Check if accessible services have been tampered with.

Stalkerware relies on deep access to your device to access data, and has been known to abuse Android's accessibility mode which, by design, gives wider access to the operating system and your data. is required for screen readers and other accessibility features to work.

Android users who do not use accessibility apps or features should not see any apps in their Android settings.

If you don't recognize the downloaded service in Accessibility Options, you can remove the app by turning it off in Settings. Some stalkerware apps are disguised as normal-looking apps and are often called “Accessibility,” “Device Health,” “System Service” or other innocuous-sounding names.

Two side-by-side screenshots show an app called KidsGuard hijacking the accessibility feature in Android to spy on unsuspecting users.  The second screenshot shows three stalkerware apps — called Accessibility, KidsGuard, and System Service — all turned 'off' so they're no longer actively working.

Android spyware often abuses the inbuilt accessibility features. Image credit: Tech Crunch

Check your notification access.

Like accessibility features, Android also allows third-party apps to access and read your incoming notifications, such as allowing a smart speaker to read alerts aloud or your car to display notifications on its dashboard. Allow to Providing notification access to the Stalkerware app allows continuous monitoring of your notifications, including message and other alerts.

You can check which apps have access to your notifications by checking your Android notification access settings under Special app access. Some of these apps you may recognize, like Android Auto. You can turn off notification access for any app you don't recognize.

Three screenshots side-by-side, one showing how to turn off notification access in Android Settings, followed by a screenshot of the Stalkerware app "System service" turned off, and the third showing the list of apps under Notification Access in Settings as Show All "is not allowed."

Spyware accesses notifications to read user messages and other alerts. Image credit: Tech Crunch

Check if the Device Admin app is installed.

Other features commonly abused by stalkerware are Android's Device Admin options, which have similar but even broader access to Android devices and user data.

Device admin options are commonly used by companies to manage their employees' phones remotely, such as wiping the phone in case of device theft to prevent data loss. But these features also allow stalkerware apps to snoop on Android displays and device data.

Two screenshots side-by-side, with one looking funny. "Security settings" app with full admin control over the Android device in question, by giving it permission "Erase all data." And "Lock the screen." The second screenshot shows the currently installed Device Admin apps as all closed.

An unrecognized item in your device manager app settings is a common indicator of phone compromise. Image credit: Tech Crunch

You can find Device Admin app settings in Settings under Security.

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, with a name as vague and confusing as “System Services”. ,” “Device Health” or “Device Admin.”

Check the apps to uninstall.

You may not see a home screen icon for any of these stalkerware apps, but they will still appear in your Android device's app list.

You can see all installed apps in Android settings. Find apps and icons you don't recognize. These apps can also show as broad access to your calendar, call log, camera, contacts and location data.

Three screenshots side-by-side, all showing three stalkerware apps disguised as regular, normal apps — one called "device health," Another called "Kids Guard" And called the third "System service." All of these apps are allowed to have extremely broad access to user data.

Spyware apps are designed to mimic common-looking names and icons. Image credit: Tech Crunch

Force stopping and uninstalling the stalkerware app will likely alert the person who installed the stalkerware that the app no ​​longer works.

Secure your device

If you had stalkerware installed on your phone, there's a good chance that your phone was unlocked, unsecured, or your screen lock was guessed or learned. A strong lock screen password can help protect your phone from intruders. You should also protect the email and other online accounts you use. Two-factor authentication wherever possible.

If you or someone you know needs help, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) provides free, confidential help to victims of domestic abuse and violence 24/7. If you are in an emergency, call 911. Coalition Against Stalkerware If you think your phone has been compromised by spyware, he has resources.

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