6. Perform a factory reset
If you’ve tried everything and still suspect there’s spyware on your device, a factory reset should be your last resort to remove spyware from an Android phone.
Performing a factory reset will completely erase all apps, documents, files, and any embedded spyware on your device.
You might already know this, but if not, take note that a factory reset will leave your Android in a ‘clean slate’ state, just like when you first bought it. Therefore, before you proceed, ensure that you have backed up all essential data.
Here’s how to factory reset an Android device (this may vary depending on the manufacturer):
Go to Settings > System > Reset options > Erase all data (factory reset).
Fig 7. Performing a factory reset on Android.
How Do Android Devices Get Spyware?
Now that you know how to remove spyware from your Android, let’s dive into how spyware may find its way onto your phone. This will help you learn how to better protect yourself in the future.
Common ways spyware ends up on Android devices
⚠️ Downloading apps from untrusted sources: Installing apps from outside of the official Google Play Store can expose your device to spyware. Some third-party app stores or websites may host hidden spy apps disguised as legitimate ones.
⚠️ Phishing scams: Cybercriminals often use phishing emails or messages that trick users into downloading malicious apps or granting permissions that install spyware.
⚠️ Infected attachments or links: Clicking on suspicious links or downloading attachments from unknown sources can lead to spyware infections.
⚠️ Fake app updates: Some websites might prompt users to download updates for popular apps, but these “updates” are often a spying app in disguise.
⚠️ App permissions: Some apps, even if downloaded from the Google Play Store, might request more permissions than they need for their operations. Granting these permissions can sometimes allow spyware-related activities.
⚠️ Malvertising: This refers to malicious advertising. Sometimes, cybercriminals disguise spyware as legitimate advertisements. If you inadvertently click on such a deceptive ad, it could lead to spyware being installed on your device
⚠️ Direct device installations: Someone with access to your phone could install a spyware app on your device when its left unattended in order to monitor your activities.
Is Your Android Compromised? Spotting the Signs of Spyware
Spyware on Android devices can manifest through various symptoms. Here are some common signs that might indicate the presence of spyware:
🔋 Feeling drained?
Notice a sudden drop in battery life? Spyware could be secretly consuming your device’s energy in the background.
🌀 Does your phone have a mind of its own?
Unexpected restarts, odd pop-ups, and apps you don’t recall downloading are potential flags.
📊 Data spike alert!
Are you burning through data faster than usual? Spyware may be sending information to external servers.
🐢 Why so slow?
If your device has become laggy or experiences frequent freezes, it’s a potential sign of malware.
📞 Who’s listening in?
Hear unusual sounds or echoes during calls? It could be spyware recording or eavesdropping on you.
📩 Mysterious messages?
Random texts filled with odd symbols or characters? This is a clear red flag.
🌡 Is your phone warm?
A strangely warm phone without any apparent reason might suggest spyware working overtime in the background.
📲 Unwanted apps?
Discovering apps you didn’t download on your Android phone? They might not be friendly.
🌙 Active when idle?
Phone lighting up or making noises when idle? It might be spyware activity.
⏳ Taking forever to shut down?
Delays in shutting down or restarting could be caused by spyware trying to prevent the process.
🌐 Strange browsing experience?
Changed home pages, unexpected pop-ups, or unfamiliar bookmarks are symptoms to watch for.
📞 Who made that call?
Spot unsolicited calls, texts, or apps accessing the internet? It could be Android phone spyware.
If you want more information, have a look at our comprehensive guide on how to tell if your Android phone has been hacked.
How to Reduce the Risk of Getting Spyware on Android Devices
Prevention is better than cure, and there are a number of ways to stop hackers from being able to access your phone in the first place. Here are some tips:
✅ Only download apps from trusted sources
It’s tempting to explore a wide range of apps, but for optimal security it’s best to stick primarily to the Google Play Store. Google puts a lot of effort into vetting apps for malicious behavior.
That’s not to say it’s foolproof, but the risk is considerably lower. Third-party app stores or direct website downloads can be risky unless you verify their authenticity.
✅ Use a strong passcode
Hackers often gain access to your phone by knowing—or guessing—your passcode. If your device supports it, use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols to vastly increase your device security.
Don’t use a passcode that’s easy to guess—for example, your birthday, and never share it with anyone.