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Experts warn against the dangers behind the usage of smartphone spyware apps, claiming that they can easily be exploited for nefarious means.

Spyware applications, often marketed as a way to monitor a child’s phone activity or ensure that employees are not stealing company times, have the potential to leak sensitive personal information, and without much effort.

In one recent study from Norton Labs, the number of devices with spyware apps in the United States increased by 63% between September 2020 and May 2021. A similar report from Avast in the United Kingdom recorded a stark 93% increase in the use of spyware apps over a comparable period.

Researchers found that spyware apps use various techniques to record data covertly. For example, one app uses an invisible browser to stream live video from the device’s camera to a spyware server. These apps can also record phone calls via the device’s microphone, sometimes activating the speaker function to capture what people are saying. Moreover, several apps also exploit accessibility features on smartphones, designed to read what appears on the screen for vision-impaired users.

Researchers also discovered that the app uses several methods to hide on the target’s device. For example, apps can specify that they do not appear in the launch bar when they initially open.

Moreover, many of these apps retain sensitive data without a customer contract or after a customer has stopped using them. Many apps do not delete data from the spyware server, even if the user in question deletes their account.