It looks like a breakthrough in nefarious mobile device software: a newly discovered spyware program can actually track you after you’ve shut down your phone.
Well, after you think you’ve shut down your phone, anyway.
As spotted by the AVG anti-virus software company, the malware (which affects Android phones, and which does not yet have a catchy nickname) tricks phone owners into thinking that they’ve shut down their devices. Pressing the power button on an infected phone calls up a fake Power Off button onto the screen. When tapped, only the phone’s screen, sound alerts, and notification lights are actually powered off.
While in this state, the spyware can reportedly make calls, take pictures, and send and receive messages.
The malware is hidden inside some apps found on Chinese app markets. So, if you’re not downloading apps from third-party Chinese app markets, you’re probably safe.
We’ve heard reports of hackers, and even the government, looking through computer and smartphone cameras remotely without owners being any the wiser. But those types of hacks had to be performed while owners were aware their devices were powered on. The introduction of this new malware looks to ruin any piece of mind that you may have once gained after allegedly “shutting off” your phone.
The good news is that this creepy spyware isn’t something that has been, or probably ever will be, found in Google Play apps. Android has gone to great lengths to clamp down on fraudulent and malicious apps in its market, now scanning them both before and after you’ve installed them to your Galaxy, HTC One, Moto X, or whatever. So if you stick with the official Google app store, you should be safe from any of the above scariness.
And obviously, if that isn’t enough assurance for you, you can always resort to pulling your phone’s battery out anytime you want privacy. We’re pretty sure there will be no malware workaround coming down the pipe for that trick. (Please, hackers, do not prove us wrong.)