How to remove spyware from your phone

Protect yourself from surveillance



Intimate partner violence is a problem for 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men. If you’re a victim, we hope this provides you with some practical tools for how to protect yourself from unwanted surveillance.

Spyware is software that enables a user to obtain information about another’s computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive.

To keep on top of what’s happening in your phone it’s a good idea to check out the apps installed on your phone every once in a while. On Android, it’s the Apps menu in Settings. On iOS, you can go to General then Apps to see what’s installed. Then, use a quick web search to look up anything you don’t recognize or remember installing.

By its very nature, stalkerware is designed to be well-hidden and hard to detect. However, it’s also difficult for something to stay on your laptop or smartphone for long if you’re specifically looking for it.

Below are the best steps to getting as much spyware off of your phone. Do note that the only way to really get your phone to be free from spyware is to do a factory reset.

Remove spy software from Android

If you want to check spying tools on an Android device, go to the Settings and proceed to Applications. Then, go to Running Services and see what services are currently running. If you find any unknown service, tap it and uninstall it after clearing the cache.

You can also check for spying software in the Manage Application screen and follow the same process if you come across any malicious tool.

Again, the best chance you have of being spyware free is to do a factory reset.

Remove spy software from iPhone

The simplest way of removing spyware from an Apple mobile device is to simply do a software update. If you’ve jailbroken your phone, you’ll want to restore it to the original operating system.

Jailbroken phones are actually much less secure. The vast majority of commercially available iPhone spyware requires the device to be jailbroken in order to function.  Jailbreaking is the process of un-restricting the device so that third party applications that have not been approved by Apple, like spyware, can be installed.

Installing the latest iOS update removes the jailbreak, thus causing any spyware installed on the device to no longer function.

On the device:

1. Go to “Settings”
2. Tap “General”
3. Then tap “Software Update”


On your computer:

1. Open iTunes on your PC or Mac
2. Connect your iOS device
3. Select your iPhone or iPad when it appears on iTunes
4. In the summary pane click “Check for Update”

To be extra safe, perform a factory reset

This is a more thorough removal method. This erases all data from the device and installs the latest iOS software, returning it to its original ‘factory’ state. You should perform a backup of your device using iTunes or iCloud before doing a factory reset so that you can restore all of your personal data again when finished.

1. Open iTunes on your PC or Mac
2. Connect your iOS device
3. Select your iPhone or iPad when it appears in iTunes
4. In the summary pane click “Restore iPhone” or “Restore iPad” depending on your device
5. Click “Restore” again to confirm
6. The device will then restore to factory settings and restart, this may take several minutes to complete
7. When completed you will have the option to restore from a backup to restore all of your personal data to the device

Parental monitoring

There are many other products that are similar to spyware, such as parental monitoring programs. Unlike spyware, most parental monitoring programs are visible on the phone. This means that you can see that some type of monitoring service is running on the phone.

Go through your phone to see if an app was installed without your knowledge. There are some parental monitoring programs that are hidden and can’t be seen by scrolling through the phone’s apps. In this case, resetting the phone to factory setting should also remove the parental monitoring program.

When a factory reset is not enough

While the best chance you have of removing spyware is to do a factory reset, this isn’t a guarantee either. From my time in China, some friend of mine would just get a new phone when they figured out my device had spyware on it.

If you’re dealing with sensitive information, I know many executives that have a secondary phone for travel to countries where spyware is a greater risk.

How do I preserve evidence of mobile spyware?

If you’re a victim of intimate partner abuse you may want preserve evidence. It is illegal to install spyware on devices for the purpose of spying or stalking another person. If you choose to remove the spyware, it will also remove the evidence.

If your goal is to preserve the phone for evidence, it is important to work with local police, who may have a specific process on analyzing mobile phones for evidence purposes. Until you speak to the police, it is best to put the phone in airplane mode and keep the phone’s battery charged.

This article also appears on Mobile Geeks in German


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