If your smartphone has been acting strangely (clicks or beeps during calls, messages take a long time to send…) and someone other than you has had access to it, you might want to take some time and check what applications are installed. A new kind of app has been created that, once installed, forwards all text messages to a specified number. So if, for instance, someone wanted to see what and whom you’re texting, they would need only to get ahold of your phone long enough to install the app and program their number as the recipient. But checking for these tracking apps isn’t easy. Many of the makers have designed them so that there is no real icon or user interface, which also makes them pretty difficult to uninstall.
And considering that the people who are installing these apps probably aren’t going to admit to installing them or complain if they do more than they advertised, it doesn’t seem likely that
the app makers will respect your privacy if one of these apps ends up on your phone. So beyond just transmitting your text messages to someone they aren’t supposed to go to, they could also track your activity and sell the data to marketers or hackers.
Some of the programs that perform this service include FlexiSpy, SecretSMSReplicator, MobileSpy, or SpyBubble. FlexiSpy also allows the person spying on the phone to make a secret call to the phone that is automatically answered by the app without a ring, so the phone can then listen to whatever is going on within listening distance of the microphone, or if you are on the phone, the software connects your secret spy into the conversation by conferencing him or her in. There are also several applications that allow a phone to be tracked by an outside user, including TrackAPartner, Mr. Tracker, and SmartPhoneTracker. None of these seem particularly trustworthy, which isn’t surprising.
You can try to check if a program like this is installed by clicking your or MENU button and clicking Manage Apps > All. As I said, these programs are almost always hidden or disguised, so you will have to google the name of any application that sounds unfamiliar to check through this list, and there is still no guarantee that any of the programs in the list will be this type of program, even if one exists on your phone’s system.
You can also try sending some text or SMS messages and then quickly looking under the
“running” tab in the manage apps section to see if anything strange is running, but there is a chance that the app “icon” is located in an unexpected location and disguised as a rarely accessed menu item. Some apps install to your SD Card. If a tracking program has been installed there, then you can remove it by switching to a new card.
On an Android device, you can view some of your phone files on your computer without installing Android developer software. When you plug the phone’s USB cord into the computer, if your data sharing is set properly, you will see a pop-up called AutoPlay. In the AutoPlay pop-up, under General options, click Open folder to view files. From within this folder, you can press Ctrl F simultaneously to open a search and try searching the terms: spy, tracker, trkr, or variations of the names of the programs above.
If a program is on your phone, and you haven’t been able to find it using any of the methods above, you can still try using a downloadable app that allows you to share the system files of your phone with your pc. FTPDroid is a popular, and I believe, secure one. Your phone’s system files are hidden and none of the steps above allow you to access them. With FTPDroid, you can use ftp to transfer your phones system files to your pc. There you can search them for anything that looks or sounds like a tracking application using Control F as above. But be very careful about making any changes to these files. Mistakes will render your phone inoperable.