Modern Advancements in Spy Technology and What to Lookout For
Privacy is a hot button topic in our society these days. It seems like every new gadget, household item, or children’s toy is now coming equipped with “smart” technology. These interactive and intelligent devices bring with them a level of weariness about their potential susceptibility to hacking and privacy violations. Stories of data breaches at big companies compromising the personal information of consumers highlight just how vulnerable our online systems can be. What you may not have considered, however, is that your spouse could be leveraging modern tech and spy gear against you.
Social media and smart-tech have made it easier than ever to pry into the mind of your spouse without them noticing. Perhaps your family considers it normal to use all the same passwords, use a communal computer that automatically logs-in to personal accounts, or share your location with one another through Apple’s “Find my Friends” feature. Nonetheless, privacy and trust are important. There is an ethical gray area in marriage when it comes to reading your spouse’s emails, texts, and social media correspondences when you two have shared devices and accounts. Despite this, there is clearly a breach of trust when your spouse has gone to great lengths to acquire your password or reconfigure your email account to automatically copy themselves on every email without your knowledge (and yes, that is a legitimate possibility).
Spying on your spouse is not only unhealthy but in many cases it’s also illegal. It is hard to tell what compels someone to spy. It could be that your spouse suspects you are cheating, or maybe feels you are hiding a bad habit such as gambling or drinking. Regardless of the motive or what spy gear, if any, is used, spying is illegal and not an advisable approach to exploring any suspicions you may have. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to discuss recent developments in spying for the purpose of giving you the information to protect yourself. This post is not an endorsement of these apps or practices, but a warning for you to know what to look for if you think your spouse could be violating your privacy.
Find My Friends – indefinite location sharing
In 2015, Apple introduced the ultimate piece of spy gear – a location sharing feature that allows users to share their location with each other indefinitely. Setting up location sharing requires a user to simply press “Share My Location” on the other user’s contact. It takes less than 10 seconds to activate the feature.
Picture this – it’s a lovely morning together, cooking breakfast with your wife, when you run out of pancake mix. You volunteer to grab more from the pantry, leaving your phone charging on the counter. Your wife picks up your phone, enables location sharing, and puts the phone back before you even return from the pantry. And now she can track your every move without you realizing it. Of course, you can always turn location sharing off again if you want to. To do so, toggle “Share My Location” back to the off position. To see all the people you are sharing your location with open the Find My Friends app. You can also make changes directly in the Find My Friends app.
Spyware for smart phones; there’s an app for that
Phones are where our entire digital lives exist these days. These devices allow us an infinite number of communication platforms, from SMS to email, Facebook, Instagram, the list goes on and on. There are apps that allow you to send fake text messages, or meet singles in your area. There are apps exclusively for having affairs, and oddly enough, an app titled “Nothing” that does exactly what the name suggests. It should come as no surprise that if your spouse wants to spy on you, there’s an app for that too. The most high tech spy gear is now available right from the app store, and while there are far too many spying apps to count, we have done the research on the most popular ones for apple and android.
Common Applications for Apple:
SpyAdvice, mSpy, Phone Tracker, SpyVid, FlexiSpy, Highster Mobile, SpyEra, SpyBubble
Common Applications for Android:
PhoneSpector, Auto Forward, Highster Mobile, Spyzie, Flexispy, MobiStealth, SpyEra
Keep in mind that these are just some of the most popular spying apps currently – there are literally thousands more and you will need to do your due diligence to make sure you don’t have any unrecognized apps lurking on your phone.
How to check your phone for spying apps?
For android phones, there are two options:
- Go to your Android smartphone settings
- Click on “Apps” (or “Applications)
- Click the three vertical dots on the top right
- Click “show system apps” to view all of your smartphone’s applications
- See if there are any apps you’re unaware of
- Go to your “My Files” or “Files” phone app
- Click on “Downloads”
- Scroll through your downloads and see if there are any abnormal files or any you do not recognize
If you have an iPhone, your spouse may need to “jailbreak” your phone if they plan to download a hidden spy program. Jailbreaking is a process of bypassing Apple’s strict control over the operating system and the strong security system in place. Jailbreaking your phone opens up the potential for spyware (as well as other security risks and negative consequences). If your phone is jailbroken but you did not jailbreak it, this could be a clear sign of spyware.
To check if your iPhone has been jailbroken, you can consult with Apple, or another tech support company such as Best Buy’s GeekSquad. There are also companies such as Certo iPhone that offer online support and advanced spyware detection for a small fee. These companies will help you determine if your phone has been compromised and assist you in fixing the problem. Usually a jailbreak can be reversed by restoring your iPhone through iTunes or iCloud.
However, commercial spyware and spy gear is constantly growing and adapting. After Apple made their software even more impenetrable, the tedious jailbreaking process became less appealing. Now there are several apps on the market that do not require a jailbroken phone at all. mSpy and SpyAdvice are two of the most popular non-jailbroken tools for spying on your spouse, with SpyAdvice boasting over 1 million users.
Both of these companies allow the app to operate in stealth mode, meaning the app icon will not appear anywhere on your screen. In this case, your best option to determine if these programs were downloaded on your phone is to check your purchase history on the app store. Here’s how:
- Open the App Store
- Click on your profile icon on the top right
- Go to “Purchased”
- Search here first. Try the name of the specific app, or the word “spy”
- If you do not find it under “Purchased”, click the tab labeled “Not on this iPhone” to view hidden apps
If you still feel uneasy, check your apple billing account to see any transactions for the purchase of spyware apps.
In most cases, restoring your phone to factory settings will remove any spyware. To be extra secure, consider changing your password regularly and keeping it private.
Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and other smart tech
As with any new emerging tech, smart speakers require trial and error. The rise of virtual assistants comes with some privacy risks and vulnerabilities. The main concern for devices like Alexa/Echo, Google Home, and Siri is the extent to which these devices are recording what is being said and if people can access those recordings, essentially turning them into spy gear. There have been reports that hackers can breach Amazon Echo’s security and stream live microphone audio to remote services. It is not likely that your spouse can do this themselves as it requires advanced computer skills and hacking abilities. Don’t relax just yet though – Amazon Echo does have a feature that your spouse could easily use to transform your device into spy gear.
Amazon Echo’s “Drop-in” feature:
Drop-in is a feature that allows a user to begin listening and speaking to you through the Echo speaker without the traditional phone ringing process or the requirement of someone answering the call. It would be very easy for someone to use this feature to eavesdrop. This may sound alarming, but luckily drop-in must be enabled on the Echo speaker itself before it can be used. If you are concerned about this feature, it can be disabled under your device’s settings.
If you want to have confidential conversations, the most secure approach would be to unplug or remove any microphone-equipped smart device from the room. If you are unable to remove the device, you can usually mute the device’s microphone through the settings or with a physical button on the speaker, essentially stopping its spy gear potential dead in its tracks.
Other ways to stay private
As long as people are tempted to pry into the private lives of others (and they always will), there will always be new and more innovative ways to spy on people. We detail many older but still often used methods at our Spousal Spying center, but here are some other general ways to avoid snooping spouses and unwanted spy gear:
- Do not share your personal account information with your spouse.
- If you have a joint account with your spouse, do not store any personal information on that account or use websites you don’t want them knowing about while logged in.
- Be cognizant of what your devices are capable of and who has access to them.
- Beware of seemingly out-of-the-blue gifts from your spouse. Micro cameras and other spy gear now sell for as little as $30 and can be placed somewhere innocuously. Even anything from ceiling fans to refrigerators may have the ability to record you built into them.
- While rarer, look out for signs that your phone may have been bugged, including odd sounds or volume changes during calls, TV or radio interference, or hearing noises from the phone after you have hung up.
It’s important to keep your electronic data safe regardless of who might go looking through it. However, if you suspect your data has already been compromised by your spouse and modern spy gear, contact an attorney immediately. Not only are they in violation of the law, but the longer they have access to your private data, the more at risk you are. Don’t let your security be compromised.