No company in the world has more command over the smartphone industry than Google's Android. Holding just north of 75% of the market share, it unfortunately also attracts lots of unwanted attention as hackers and cybercriminals of all ages, nationalities, and intent.
While viruses and ransomware get the biggest headlines and seem to do the most damage, spyware is the one that really can wreak havoc with your phone, your data, and your life in general.
Fortunately, for astute observers of smartphones and their behavior, there are no fewer than 13 warning signs that there is spyware lurking on your Android smartphone. Take a good look at the following flashing red lights if you think your Android might be acting strangely.
- Ghost in the machine: Have you ever noticed your phone acting like it has a mind of its own? That's a surefire sign that spyware is in control and pushing your phone through a host of maneuvers.
- Battery draining quickly: All those whistles, bells, and dings mentioned above aren't the only physical sign that something's amiss in your device. If you're seeing it burn more battery life for no real reason, you can suspect that spyware or some other tracking system is in place processing constantly to devour your battery.
- Odd noises during phone calls: Mankind is a long way from perfect clarity every time a call is made, so hisses, static and the occasional click are no big deal. But if you're hearing unfamiliar beeps, the root cause might be spyware that is actually recording your calls in hopes of culling useful information such as when you are calling to inquire on your bank account or a credit card.
- Random Reboots: Rebooting your phone is usually only necessary for security updates or when you get stuck in an app. The phone doing this on its own is extremely unlikely.
- Strange Texts: Spyware apps often send and receive texts using codes and symbols that appear as gibberish to the human eye. If you're getting these texts with any sort of regularity, it's likely spyware getting directives.
- Getting Stagefright: Stagefright is a video text that had a vulnerability letting hackers slip through. It's the kind of problem encountered by Android users a lot because there are so many third-party stores. Make sure to check the reputation of the developer for any app you might put on your phone.
- Above-Average Data Usage: Just like with your battery life, you know when your data usage skyrockets beyond your standard amount, it usually means some hidden party is gobbling it up without your consent.
- Phone idle, but sounds continue: If your phone is doing nothing more than sitting on your desk but you're still hearing noise coming out of it, it could mean it's getting spied on. Run an antivirus software immediately.
- Shutdown delays: Your phone should respond automatically when you initiate a shutdown. If it's taking much longer than normal, it could be that something else isn't crazy about relinquishing control. If you are suspicious, try shutting the phone down at random times, several times a day to see what the response is.
- Treat your apps like family: That is, don't let just anyone come barging into your home or your phone. Pirated apps and those without reviews at all should not be let in through the front door or anywhere else without carefully vetted credential checks.
- Popup Ads: Popups ads should be a rarity on your phone and should definitely not appear when you're not on the Internet. The more you see them, and the more they try to redirect you to sites you've never heard of, the more likely they're being controlled by spyware.
- PC Error Messages: These spoof ads will usually tell you either something wonderful – you've won the lottery – or something terrible. Either way, it's probably fake and a sign that it's time to start checking into antivirus spyware for your Android.
- Suspicious Files: Most people barely even notice they have a file manager on their phones, and even then it's just a wasteland of ring tones, emojis, and pictures. If there weird files in your manager, particularly ending in .EXE, you definitely have unwanted software on your phone.