Smart phones are growing in popularity. Similar to a mini computer, there are so many conveniences that come with a smartphone on top of the unlimited access to data that the Internet provides. With special apps we have banking at our fingertips, we can check our email and social networks, and get directions anywhere we need to go. They help us with school and work, and we can even watch movies and television shows on them. They add an increased level of connectivity by allowing us to be connected where ever we may be.
We are hearing more and more about the tracking abilities of smartphones and there are mixed emotions about whether this is a good or bad thing. Parents can use them to track their children, bosses can use them to track their employees, but where do we draw the line? How far is too far? As a teenager I would have felt like it was a breach of my privacy, but as an adult I realize there are times when my privacy should have been breached. We are responsible for what our children do, and let’s face it, kids have very little rights. As an employee I would again feel like my rights were violated, but as an employer I would want to make sure my employees were where they are supposed to be, doing what they are being paid to do.
It is important to note that spy software can do much more than just track. It can be downloaded on a phone and run in the background completely undetected. Someone can track where the phone is, but they can also read incoming and outgoing texts (even ones that have been deleted, they can hear phone conversations, and they can even be notified anytime a call or text is made or received, all without the person using the phone ever knowing. Someone can even access contacts and contact information stored on the phone.
What is probably most alarming is that someone can listen to what you are saying through the microphone, even if you are not operating the phone. You don’t need to be talking on your smartphone. You can be talking to a passenger in your car or the cashier at the supermarket. If the spyware is installed they can hear anything you say within hearing distance of your phone, without your phone showing any signs that its being used.
Apparently it is legal to install spyware on any device that you own, but listening in on a private conversation without either parties consent may not be. Most spyware companies state that they prohibit illegal use, but with the spyware being fairly undetectable even by large cell phone companies, illegal activity would be difficult to prove.
Spyware can be downloaded onto your phone through a simple, short phone call and can even be installed if your phone goes through to voice mail. It is likely that there will be no visible sign that your phone has been tampered with. Security experts say there may be some subtle signs your phone has been invaded:
- You seem to have trouble shutting it off, or it stays lit up after you’ve powered down.
- The phone sometimes lights up when you aren’t making or receiving a call, or using any other function.
- You regularly hear odd background noises or clicks when you’re on the phone.
In the future it is likely that there will be better security programs for our smartphones, but for now there isn’t much we can do to protect our privacy. If you think your phone might have embedded spyware take it to your local provider. They can wipe it; restoring factory settings and removing any hidden software in the process.