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How to detect spy apps on your iPhone

Still think iOS is invulnerable? It’s not. Here’s how to detect spy apps on your iPhone. Spies can also infiltrate Apple devices, most often through operating system vulnerabilities. For example, the companies Cellebrite and Grayshift use such bugs to bypass device protection. These companies do not disclose their operating principle, but they ask for $15,000 to unlock an iPhone. Attackers need only a remote control utility: once the protection is removed, they can easily install surveillance apps on the device.

How to detect spy apps

There are three ways to detect iOS attacks: the first is based on detecting manipulations performed on the main system. The second is based on data flow analysis, and the third compares data usage.

  • In the first case, you need Lookout, Mobile Security, available for free in the App Store. This utility checks whether the device has been manipulated by the underlying system, which is usually necessary to install spyware.
  • The second method of detection is traffic analysis. Use the Mitmproxy utility. Also be sure to install a certificate from Mitmproxy so that you can view encrypted information as well. Uninstall questionable apps and re-download them from the App Store.
  • If nothing was found, but you still suspect that spyware is running on your device, you can analyze your data usage. To do this, compare the usage statistics from your device with the value on your mobile bill. The difference should not exceed 100-200 Mbytes. A different result could mean that some application is sending data in the background, unbeknownst to the phone itself. Look at the corresponding information in the printout of your service provider. If the difference in numbers is significant, you should assume that some spyware app is surreptitiously transmitting data without asking for your permission.

To block spyware attacks on your iOS devices, you need to reset all settings to factory defaults. When doing so, it is important not to restore any existing backup from the cloud. There may be certain hidden program settings lurking in user data that can infect a cleaned device.

Protecting iOS devices

Typically, spyware gets onto devices via SMS links or during Drive-by-Download attacks. Also, keep your iOS system up to date. We would like to warn you against installing beta versions, because although they contain new features, the underlying software may be outdated.

Links in SMS messages from unknown sources should always be checked on specialized sites first. In addition, you should only allow access to the camera and microphone to individual applications that you use on a regular basis and that really need it on a daily basis. 

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