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There is a large amount of so-called smartphone “spy software” available that promises to log everything a phone does, while attempting to remain undetectable. Compromised devices are easily traceable via GPS How To Use A GPS Enabled Smartphone As A Tracking Device How To Use A GPS Enabled Smartphone As A Tracking Device GPS is one of the more frequently overlooked enhancements in consumer technology. It’s at least as useful and interesting as Wi-Fi, but often taken for granted. That’s a shame, because it can be incredibly useful,... Read More , can record incoming and outgoing text messages, log phone calls, and can even be used to view photos and browser history.

Installing such software on Android or BlackBerry devices is morally questionably, but generally easier than doing so on an iPhone. To spy on an iPhone, you’ve got to circumvent Apple’s own restrictions and protective measures, potentially exposing the device to security holes and software incompatibility in the process.

Think you’ve got a compromised device? Wondering what you can do about it? Here’s what you need to know.

A Legitimate Use?

Spy software, by its very nature, is designed to snoop on people. It is for this reason that anyone reading this who is contemplating installing such software probably doesn’t care what I have to say about any aspect of doing so. If you’re already thinking about doing this, you’ve probably already ethically justified the practice in your head. Whatever your reasoning for doing so, it’s always worth considering how you would feel if someone did the same to you.

Most spy software is marketed in a very broad way. Not only is it advertised to snoopers who want to track the location of an individual, or spy on someone’s smartphone usage but it’s also marketed as a legitimate security tool. This is ethically questionable at best, and a massive breach of privacy at worse. Unfortunately we can’t change the minds of those who are already engaged in the practice, but we can try to redress the balance for those drawn in by dishonest marketers.

monitoring-iphone

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Parents — do not use this software to trace your children. There are free and safe ways of sharing a location from an iPhone, which we will come to at the end of the article. Some marketers try to target employers, so employers — do not use this software to spy on your workforce. If you feel like you need to be concerned about smartphone security in your workplace then you shouldn’t be allowing non-company devices in the workplace. Period.

Warranty, We Hardly Knew Ye

There is no spy software on the market that will be able to do all it promises – i.e. spy on any activity, trace any location or upload any camera images – without voiding the target device’s warranty. Parents installing such software will be voiding warranty on those devices. Paranoid other-halves will be voiding their spouse’s warranties also, and this goes for employers too. This is because you’ll need to jailbreak the iPhone before you can do so.

Apple takes a hardline approach to security. The iPhone is not designed to run non-Apple software, and doing so is seen as a security violation by Apple. Tampering with system-level software isn’t illegal, but Apple can and will detect the practice if you ever take the device in for repair. Android does things differently: unchecking a box in settings allows the installation of non-Google Play apps, and it’s just as easily reversible.

Jailbreaking involves loading custom firmware onto the device which provides greater freedom, allowing users to run unsigned software. Spy software is always unsigned for two reasons: it would never be able to perform its spying duties due to iOS permissions, and Apple would never allow it in the App Store in the first place. Many people don’t realise it but with some preparation a jailbreak can take a matter of minutes to complete.

undetectable-spy

Jailbreaking will also void any AppleCare after-sales warranty AppleCare: What Are Your Options & Is It Really Worth It? AppleCare: What Are Your Options & Is It Really Worth It? High customer satisfaction ratings and a large network of stores capable of performing certain repairs on-site give AppleCare the edge over the average warranty - but are the benefits really worth the price? Read More  that has been purchased. Jailbreaking is fine if it’s your own iPhone and you understand the risks involved in doing so. Even a jailbreak gone wrong is unlikely to “brick” your iPhone. But jailbreaking someone else’s device without their knowledge isn’t very nice.

Unsigned apps can potentially include malware 4 Compelling Security Reasons Not To Jailbreak Your iPhone or iPad 4 Compelling Security Reasons Not To Jailbreak Your iPhone or iPad Read More . If the root SSH password remains unchanged once the jailbreak is complete, malware could run riot on your phone and with no Apple guardians to oversee software, you have to rely on third-party developers to be the judge and jury. If you think about it, spy software is malware by design but marketed as valid software.

iPhones and other iOS devices that have been jailbroken can sometimes have problems running legitimate App Store apps. Developers have ways of detecting a jailbreak and can now prevent jailbroken devices from using their services. One example would be DIRECTV which delivers streaming video and another reported app is Skype for iOS. Many banking apps are also restricted for obvious reasons, as is PayPal. Getting these apps working again involves playing a game of cat and mouse between developers and the jailbreak community.

non-jailbroken-spy

Some companies even offer so-called jailbreak-free monitoring, which requires the Apple ID login credentials of the target and access to iCloud Backups in order to work. This uses Apple’s own geo-location service (Find my iPhone) to locate the device, as requires unhindered access to the entire phone backup. Essentially you’re handing the keys to the victim’s entire Apple identity to a shady company that specialises in spying on people.

Detecting Spy Software

There’s actually no guarantee you’ll be able to find evidence of the spy software itself, as such software is designed to be hidden from view. Instead there may be a few left over telltale signs of a jailbreak, and if you find them and but have not performed a jailbreak yourself then you should be suspicious of anyone who has had access to your device. If your partner or parent has jailbroken your device for you then it isn’t certain you’re being spied upon, but it is very difficult to prove otherwise without reverting to stock firmware.

The biggest telltale sign of a jailbreak is the Cydia app. Even if this app has been hidden from the home screen, searching for it (pull down or swipe to the right on your homescreen) should still find it. If the application is there, your phone is jailbroken (don’t worry about Wikipedia entries, as per the screenshot below).

cydia-search

There is no guarantee of finding Cydia, and the careful snooper will probably try all they can to hide any signs of a jailbreak. Other apps to search for that might suggest a jailbreak include Installer, Icy, SBSettings, Absinthe and Installous. Similarly, installing an app like PayPal (mentioned above) might reveal something is up if they refuse to run.

Removing The Software

Because jailbreaking is a game of cat and mouse played between Apple and the jailbreak community, the latest is rarely ever able to be jailbroken Should You Still Jailbreak Your iPhone in 2015? Should You Still Jailbreak Your iPhone in 2015? It used to be that if you wanted advanced functionality on your iPhone, you'd jailbreak it. But is it really worth it at this stage in the game? Read More . Keeping your phone up to date and performing all iOS updates as and when your iPhone notifies you about them is the best way to remain secure. Apple is quick to patch security vulnerabilities and jailbreak exploits, and rolling your phone back to old firmware is rarely an option. Even if your iPhone has been jailbroken, removal is surprisingly easy.

Reverting your phone back to stock Apple firmware does the trick. Apple may be keeping track of unique identification numbers (UDIDs) of jailbroken devices via the App Store, but it would seem restoring your phone “as new” will remove all traces of a jailbreak Update Or Restore Your Jailbroken iPhone Or iPad To Stock The Right Way Update Or Restore Your Jailbroken iPhone Or iPad To Stock The Right Way You've had your fun flouting Apple's restrictions, and now you want vanilla iOS back in all its glory. Luckily the process is even easier than jailbreaking. Read More .

restore-iphone

To restore your iPhone launch iTunes on a Mac or Windows PC and choose Restore — hit Back Up Now first to save all of your data. If you do choose to backup and restore, there’s a chance some evidence of the jailbreak will be retained, but the jailbreak itself will be gone. If your phone needs attention from Apple (either as part of a 12-month warranty or the extended AppleCare package) then you may be denied service if evidence of a jailbreak is detected.

Parents Listen Up

There are two very easy to use free alternatives to spy software for parents who are concerned about the whereabouts of their children. Find My Friends works across Apple devices and uses Apple IDs to connect friends and family 3 More Ways To Track Your iPhone & Other iOS Devices 3 More Ways To Track Your iPhone & Other iOS Devices Having just received notification of my 4G iPad shipping, I decided to look into some better ways of tracking my mobile devices. Right now, I'm a steadfast user of Find My iPhone - both my... Read More . By authorising a friend or family member to view your location in Find My Friends, they will be able to see where you are whenever they like. If you have young children you can enable location sharing within Find My Friends, then use iOS restrictions to prevent changes Lock Down Your Child's iPhone Access & Hide Apps With iOS Restrictions Lock Down Your Child's iPhone Access & Hide Apps With iOS Restrictions The ability to restrict the use of an iPhone is just another set of underused iOS features, and it's handy both for parents and tweakers alike. Read More to Location Services.

find-my-friends

Find My Friends works best with the consent of the user, and could be a great opportunity to establish a system of trust with your children. It will not record messages, phone calls, or camera activity because it is not spy software, but a tool for staying in touch. Using Find My Friends doesn’t teach your children that spying on people is the right thing to do and can be used to establish a dialogue regarding personal safety and even smartphone security. Talk to your children about why you want to use such a service.

The other way to share location between iOS devices is via the Messages app. Simply open a conversation on the device, hit the i button in the top-right corner, and hit Share My Location. You can choose to do so for an hour, for a day, or indefinitely. You can then stay in touch by opening the same conversation on another device, and hitting the button.

share-location-messages

If you’re worried about your children’s uncanny ability to lose things then remember to enable Find My iPhone How To Use Find My iPhone To Get Your Stolen iPhone Back How To Use Find My iPhone To Get Your Stolen iPhone Back Long story short: my wife had her iPhone stolen when she misplaced it at work the other day. I was able to log into her iCloud account and eventually get the device back. Read More , a similar service accessible via iCloud. For as long as the phone is left in the same state it was when it was lost it will be traceable using Apple’s own plan B.

This isn’t a lesson in parenting, but a lesson in ethics and trust. It’s also a lesson in not being ripped-off by marketers trying to sell you a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Take a close look at the FAQs and you’ll see the requirement for a jailbreak quietly mentioned — usually an old, outdated version of iOS with known security breaches — behind advertising phrases like “completely undetectable.”

A Final Word

All software that promises to spy on an iPhone requires a jailbreak. Some do not mention it in their marketing speak, but it’s a requirement and it always will be. Many of these packages are not one-off payments but subscription models that require a minimum term, which quickly adds up. Be smart, be safe, be honest and don’t get ripped off.

Have you had any experience with such iPhone spy software? Have you been on the receiving end? Get out the soapbox and have your say in the comments, below.

Article updated by Tim Brookes on October 27, 2016

Image credit: Jonathan Grado via Flickr

  1. Joeblo
    October 10, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    I suspected my wife of cheating based on 2 tiny, flimsy pieces of evidence and might have ended our beautiful marriage (or cheated myself if the opportunity presented itself) if I had not been able to confirm that she wasn't. Obviously there are ethical questions to be asked before increasing ones scrutiny of someone, but the option that does less harm is only dismissed automatically by Simpletons seeking to signal their own virtue.

  2. s
    October 7, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    ethics, you never have had a child try and kill themselves

  3. Rob
    July 28, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Has anyone tried Certo iPhone? Apparently it can detect Jailbreaks and spyware on iPhones and iPads.

  4. DH
    November 19, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    ThanQ, we have an iphone that is second hand and wanted to make sure it wasnt "jailbroken". so i will be doing a search and restore mission. thanks again for the help!

  5. k3ff
    November 13, 2015 at 7:57 am

    maaaan u want root for the love of....

  6. Jim McClure
    November 1, 2015 at 1:10 am

    If I was not monitoring the kids, I would be the only one. If they have a smart phone they are being monitored by corporations and governments so I think it's best I keep an eye on them as well. Mostly to make sure their activity is what I feel acceptable for them to share with the strangers already tracking them.

    • ua2020
      July 8, 2016 at 3:03 am

      you are disgusting. you should never spy on your children without their consent. that is a violation of trust, and leaves the child feeling hurt, and like they can't be trusted. and one day this will come back and bite you in the ass when you push it to far. eventually they separate themselves from you and ultimately you will end up never speaking again. this happened to my parents and I and they tell me constantly how they regret that violation of my trust. think twice, please.

      • BS
        August 4, 2016 at 12:42 am

        @ua2020..

        BS..It is good to monitor and watch your children's activities. There are children that although they are brought up right, they still go off and do the wrong thing. Monitoring your children's activities and where abouts can save their lives if need be. When your child does something stupid and hurts or kills themselves, It won't be me who says "I didn't know my child was doing that" as is often the case when something happens. My kids actually feel safer knowing that I know what they are doing and where they are through the use of software.

  7. sugarmomma
    October 5, 2015 at 2:48 am

    Teensafe is a monitoring service you can use on iPhones and you do not have to jailbreak the target phone first.

  8. Tom Richy
    June 24, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    i do not consider spying apps to be a problem.. while it can be detected by a good antivirus software.. it will appear as a kind of malware.. however there are modern tracking apps which do not need jailbreak.. for instance you can check mSpy http://www.phonespyapps.com/mspy-review Good or bad such softwartes are widely used by busy parents, who want to control their kids.

  9. Vicky Chen
    June 23, 2015 at 9:35 am

    As I know you cannot avoid being monitored by this unless you never use a iPhone. Of course the smartphones provide us with great convenience, but also brings us with danger. There are many monitoring software such as the iKeyMonitor, it can log whatever typed on your phone and send it to the present email.Wish you good luck.And if you suspect that your phone was monitored,then you can have it factory-setting.

  10. Madison Massey
    June 4, 2015 at 2:41 am

    First, let me be clear to everyone that I am a parent to a son that is on the precipice of entering his teenage years, and I have also had my heart broken as a victim of infidelity that was happening behind my back for two years, on and off, in my first "serious" relationship, post-divorcing my son's father. That being said, I'm sure people's initial reactions are something regarding how stupid or blind was I to be unaware I was the mere mark of a slimy cheating scumbag for two years. The answer is simple. I am a trusting person, who wants to believe and see the good in people first. I am probably too trusting, and am fully aware that giving blind trust to new people in my life, or what some refer to as "the benefit of the doubt", might be foolishly naive to a fault. I have felt the sting of humiliation from being taken advantage of, lied to, and my extension of trust to someone being exploited and taken for granted. However, as long as I live by the "fool me once..." rule, then the offender is voted off my island (no second chances), and believe me, my island is a paradise that should not be disrespected! Like most though, the exiled ones never think about what they had until they can't ever have it again. I digress, but here is my point. I do not believe in snooping or utilizing spyware under any circumstances, be it your children, your employees, or your significant other! Invasion of privacy and an individual's right to have their personal life remain just that, personal, is one of the main civil liberties this county was founded on. I was raised (with heavy handed consequences as motivation) that if a piece of mail doesn't have my name on it, then it is not for me to open and read. I still believe in the right to privacy today, and the people commenting here that believe themselves to be justified in their spying might as well go fill out a job application down at the NSA. You the U.S. governments version of Big Brother? Notorious for the highly publicized controversy regarding the excessive snooping their office has done through the American public's cell phones. They attempt to justify their spy games as a necessary part of preventing terrorist activities that could threaten us on our home turf. For anyone that believes that tripe, please hear me now. THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT IS RUN BY THE MOST CORRUPT GREED AND POWER MONGERS ON THE PLANET. DO NOT TRUST ANYTHING A POLITICALLY AFFILIATE TELLS YOU. IT IS MOST CERTAINLY A LIE THAT IS MERE RHETORIC DESIGNED TO EARN YOUR TRUST SO YOU WILL SUPPORT THEIR AGENDAS, WHICH ARE ALWAYS LITTERED WITH ULTERIOR MOTIVES AND ARE HIDDEN UNTIL AFTER THEY'VE GAINED YOUR VOTE. (On a side note, I would like to remind all those affiliated with our national government that the famous novel "1984" was meant to be read as a fictional story, not a user's manual.) The bottom line is that the truth always comes out in the end. I didn't need spyware to figure out that dip shit boyfriend was cheating, and if you are suspicious your spouse is up to no good, forget wasting time and money to find out the painful details about what your gut instinct is already trying to tell you. Instead, spend the money on a makeover or vacation with your friends, tell the cheater he better call Tyrone, and move on to better things. For the spying parents out there, it's as simple as this. If you haven't formed a relationship with your kids based on trust, meaning there are boundaries that are always to be respected on both sides, combined with creating an environment where your kids feel safe having an open dialogue with you about their personal lives and coming of age issues. That entails not being psychotic with rules, overly protective against the dangers of the big bad world that is waiting for them no matter how hard you try to shelter them, and treating them with basic human respect. Trust me, if your teen finds out even once that you snooped through their room or phone, that's it. You will have broken the circle of trust for good, and they are going to start hiding everything from you, and they are better at hiding shit than the worst terrorist groups of our time. Besides, I was about as horrible a teenager as they come. I was sneaky as heck, a great liar in a pinch, partied constantly, and generally risked my life as often as I could as I fledged the nest. But, guess what? I lived. I also learned. And, most importantly, when I ran into bumps along the way, I felt I could, and I did many many times, call home to mom and dad for advice or help. I can't say I would have felt the same way about talking to them if they had been spying on me behind my back early on. Trust is an extremely delicate block amongst the other elements that form the foundation of a strong healthy mutually beneficial relationship. Just one crack in the trust block could crumble the whole thing to the ground for good. Honesty is the best policy, albeit cliche sounding, it is an adage as old as the golden rule, and both sayings hold water under any contextual circumstance that calls upon their use. I can't think of a single phrase, adage, rule, or saying that is used to give merit or justification to spying on another person. Just saying....

  11. Kat
    May 19, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I just want to reply to a comment by a Cjones. I know it's old and I haven't read all the other replies/comments after (there's a few) so sorry if this is already mentioned.
    You can get limited access via spyware that is remotely set up to view things such as sms and call log etc. it however relies on iCloud back up and so the person using spyware must know the iCloud username and password that is being used on the phone in question. But this is not something you need to download on the target phone to do.

    Also Bluetooth and wifi can be turned on without unlocking a phone. Although physical access is required. As long as Siri is active she will turn it on for you. As well as read you any unopened messages and show your most recent call and with a bit a finnesing even show most recent calls to and/or from a specific contact or number. You can post to Facebook or Twitter check the notes add to calendar and make calls or send sms all without unlocking the phone via the passcode. This is on the current iOS software. Just something to be mindful off.

  12. Anonymous
    May 9, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for the article. We have a serious and legitimate concern for the safety of our teenager (someone wanting to contact her with harmful intentions- an actual someone- not a perceived threat).

    My daughter is not fully aware of the consequences of her actions. We were considering a nanny-type software to use it as a learning tool. We wanted to monitor her activity and then talk to her about anything concerning or dangerous (such as giving out personal details to people on activities and whereabouts). But when I would do my searches, they would always come up with the word "spy" and that was bothering me. That's not what I'm wanting to do.

    Thank you for the information and clarity on this. I will see if there is something less intrusive we can do to help protect her but still let her have her privacy.

  13. Shannon
    March 29, 2015 at 1:16 am

    Also, when you check through your apps in the way that you showed for Cydia....what does it mean if 3 apps have the word "extra" all the way on the right?
    For instance the compass app says "compass" but to the right side of the screen, the word "extra" appears.

    • ua2020
      July 8, 2016 at 3:06 am

      that's what folder the app is in.

  14. Monica Brown
    March 18, 2015 at 12:48 am

    How I Got My Husband Back...........

    My Names is Monica Brown ,AM from United states .i never believed in love spells or magic until i met this spell caster once when i went to Africa in June last year on a business summit i meet a man called Dr kokotemple, is powerful he could help you cast a spells to bring back my love s gone misbehaving lover looking for some one to love you bring back lost money and magic money spell or spell for a good job i am now happy & a living testimony cos the man i had wanted to marry left me 8weeks before our wedding and my life was upside down cos our relationship has been on for 5 year i really loved him, but his mother was against me and he had no good paying job so when i met this spell caster, i told him what happened and explained the situation of things to him at first i was undecided,skeptical and doubtful, but i just gave it a try and in 3days when i returned to taxes my boyfriend (is now my husband ) he called me by himself and came to me apologizing that everything had been settled with his mom and
    family and he got a new job interview so we should get married i didn’t believe it cos the spell caster only asked for my name and my boyfriends name and all i wanted him to do well we are happily married now and we are expecting our little kid and my husband also got a new job and our lives became much better in case anyone needs the spell caster for some help his email address:dr.kokotemple@gmail.com

    • Sam
      March 22, 2015 at 2:50 am

      Thanks Tim,
      This people who attempt to rationalize this type of behavior need to take a few steps back and take a good look at themselves....

      What they and all iPhone users should really be worried about is how easy it is for the government to snoop on THEM!

      Take note.... By design, Apple's API makes it extremely easy for the government to eavesdrop on YOU!

  15. Sam
    March 15, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    As far as I'm concerned, any parent who is spying on their children in this way are engaging in clearly illegal and immoral activity. Imagine when you were growing up.... Did your parents listen in or record your phone calls? Did they rip open your mail and read it? Or read your diary? How would you have felt? Betrayed. right? All these actions are clearly a violation of ones "Right to Privacy". And this goes for you people doing this to your spouse as well! Anyone who attempts to justify these actions are kidding themselves.... In complete denial!

    • Tim Brookes
      March 16, 2015 at 1:31 am

      At last, some sense! Most of the comments I get on this article these days are from the tin foil hat brigade who completely forget about small inconsequential things like the law and upstanding moral behaviour.

      Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the concern that parents and (to a lesser extent) suspicious partners have, but your inability to rationalise doesn't put you above the law.

      • Jim McClure
        November 1, 2015 at 1:22 am

        I didn't know the Right To Privacy was a right children have with their parents. News to me. Teenagers can make dumb mistakes and in a world where the government and corporations think it perfectly fine to listen in or track my minor children, I think it's wise that parents do as well. Not to spy on the kids but to assure they don't do things or provide information to strangers who shouldn't have the information. Teaching our kids that on the internet if it's free then you are the product is important. Am I invading their privacy, Yes, but I love them and I do it to make sure the strangers that track them without my permission don't overreach the uncomfortable boundaries we have all already accepted.

        • Donna
          October 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm

          Not justified to me! You shouldn't ever break that trust! If and when your child finds out, it's ALL on you! Wrong on so many levels!!!

  16. coh
    March 7, 2015 at 7:58 am

    On the other hand, I'm safety concerned from an ex. He had access to my iphone4s. If I restore, but then load the backup, is there some possibility that if there is a spy program it would still be there (as part of the backup-? Same concern if I get a new phone.

  17. MJ
    February 10, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Hi! I have been thinking to purchase one of this spy app to monitor my husband
    Activities because I feel like my husband is cheating on me. There is no way I could follow him cause I don't drive and when I check his text messages they all deleted even his email and his voice mail. He always leave home early and sometimes he brings extra formal shirt with him to work. One time I came down to the garage watch him soon as he pulled up and he was deleting his messages but sometimes maybe he forgot to delete his message to his boss , he called her sunshine . She is actually boss of my husband boss. My husband wanted her to do something and she is very nice to my husband. She gives him a lot of uniform and she gives whatever my husband wants. As what I know she get to the office at 8 am and my husband time is 8:50 but my husband leave home at 7:50 am and the work place is just 8 min from home. ...is there any spy app that can help me ? Please!! I just need to know what's going on. I am very tired .

    • Ivie
      March 1, 2015 at 10:42 am

      MJ, I'm in the same boat. I would like to know what spyware can I download on an IPhone so I can catch the devil :(

  18. Anonymous
    February 3, 2015 at 4:06 am

    Once my iphone started behaving really strange. It became v v slow n was getting stuck. Someone told me to check for spyware. Turns out my partner had jailbroken my phone and installed a spyware. All my msgs chats and call logs were being emailed to him. So i just restored my phone and upgraded it to the latest ios. Seemed to solve the problem apparently

    • jenermy.K
      February 3, 2015 at 7:49 am

      Yes, you are right, if the spyware was installed on your iPhone and is working, all logs will be restored on your iPhone, it will run more and more slowly.

  19. jenermy.K
    February 2, 2015 at 8:56 am

    To be honest, it is dangerous to some extent to use iPhone spy software, however, you also can't admit it is useful to help someone who wanna track activities. I know one iPhone spy app iKeyMonitor- no call interruption, people can see it to log SMS, keystrokes, website history... Whatever spy app we use, we should think both the bad and good aspects!
    http;//remotespy.co

  20. Steve
    January 9, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Two points regarding the "morally reprehensible" angle:

    (1) I use spy software on my OWN phone so that my conduct can be monitored by others I have asked to hold me accountable. Modern technology makes it easy to live in isolation. Isolation removes consequences thereby lowering natural obstacles to poor & unhealthy choices. If, on the other hand, I chose to live my life on a billboard, I'm far less inclined to make bad choices.

    (2) Regarding children, monitoring internet activities is not solely a trust issue. It's about my responsibility to my child. And it's about the adolescent brain. For those who don't have teenagers (and have forgotten their own teen years), to put it mildly, their brains cease normal function around 12 and do not resume normal function until around 20, if they're lucky. It's not that I don't "trust" their judgment, it's that I know their undeveloped frontal lobe inhibits their capacity for judgment. They just don't have the ability to fully comprehend or appreciate the consequences of their actions.

    And the consequences are too great. I know the lengths that I (and every other 12-year-old boy) went to in order to see the mild porn available in 1980 (playboy, etc). The nature and accessibility of today's internet porn is a force greater than most any pubescent boy could hope to resist. And with the mounting evidence of long-term, potentially permanent damage of habitual exposure to porn in adolescence is alarming. It would be no less irresponsible of me as a parent to allow my children unfettered access to the internet than it would be to allow them I unrestricted, un-monitored access to a meth house.

    On the other hand, I tell my children when they are being monitored. I'm not sneaky about it. I tell them it's like training wheels. Once you have demonstrated a reliable pattern of healthy choices, I will ease back on the restrictions until the training wheels are off. But I won't hesitate to put them back on if find you in lying in a pool of blood in the driveway with your femur sticking out. You don't blindly toss your child the keys to an 800-HP dragster his first day driving, right? Does that make you morally reprehensible? Of course not. It make you responsible and loving. You given him grandma's '83 Buick, with you "monitoring" him from the passenger seat until you're convinced he can operate the vehicle safely. Only then do you let him drive alone. If he can avoid accidents and (too many) speeding tickets, then, perhaps, you allow him the sports car. Is that because you don't trust him? Perhaps. But isn't it more about your obligation as a responsible parent?

  21. Hilda
    December 29, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    Tim, you are obviously not a parent to a teen. You must not remember being one either. Parents can be very open, but in the end, kids will make stupid choices. I would like to know what my kid is doing when he tells me he is just going for coffee downtown.

    • Tim Brookes
      January 2, 2015 at 3:37 am

      So illegal surveillance is the answer? If your son discovered you were monitoring him because you don't trust him (and there are few other reasons you'd choose to do so), do you think he would be hurt?

      I would be hurt. It would make me question the validity behind being honest about my actions in the first place. If nobody believes you, why tell the truth?

      This is before we get into the material reasoning behind installing a jailbreak, like voiding warranties and non-working apps. Want to teach your son responsible banking using a mobile app to manage his money? Too bad financial institutions block jailbroken devices!

  22. l33t_sh1tz0r
    October 10, 2013 at 4:11 am

    to the know-it-all who wrote this, a legitimate use for that software is to learn information pertaining to the well-being of a minor. consider being the partner who is cheated on; they've used every trick in the book to do u on all fronts and YOUR one-off effort to sort it out and learn simply the truth (whatever your purposes for it may be....), is not the equal of you being morally or otherwise sub-standard in any way. like i said above, the interests of a young child ought to compel any rational, say, PARENT, to want to learn whatever truth may be found in order to look out for the child's and dare i say their own well-being.

    since when is looking out for yourself a sub-standard way of going about "existence"? hmm? what line must be crossed to achieve this sub-standard status? yes? who are we to even consider judging this upon ourselves personally, let alone complete strangers...

    nice arty-cool though, ty =D

    • Tim B
      October 10, 2013 at 6:39 am

      A rational parent doesn't give a child free reign to do what they like with a smartphone. A rational parent doesn't give their child unhindered access to the Internet. A rational parent sits down with their child and teaches them the boundaries when it comes to social networking, contacting strangers and responsible use of 21st century communication methods. A rational parent does not teach their child that spying on people is ok, because it's not – in fact, it's illegal!

      Similarly, spying on a partner because you yourself suspect they are cheating on you is just as illegal. Two wrongs don't make a right, not to mention the fact that it breeds a mentality of suspiciousness, jealousy and destroys the boundaries that keep a healthy relationship healthy.

      Looking out for yourself is making the right decisions in life. Any semblance of moral high ground is removed when you use these techniques to "reveal the truth". What if the truth isn't what you thought it was? Would you tell your other half "sorry I have been illegally monitoring everything you do on your phone for 2 weeks cos I thought you were cheating on me lol" – how would that go down? It would destroy my relationship, and I hope that many other people would react in the same way. Because it's not right.

      Not to mention the act of jailbreaking puts your phone at risk of non-working apps, malware and all manner of this sort of software. I'd be just as pissed off about that. Anyone concerned about someone installing such software on their phones can sleep easy if they have iOS 7 installed, as it has yet to be jailbroken.

  23. Anonymous
    October 6, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Thanks a million! For an idiot like me, this was very informative. Please don't stop educating us about these devices.

  24. Dani
    October 4, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Thank you. I've got anxiety now about spyware, oy! My bank account was compromised today and my battery is acting Crazy! Cheers to the weekend.

  25. Dani
    October 4, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Ok, can someone use my banking app through spyware, and again confirming this is only possible if my phone has been jailbroken?

    • Tim B
      October 4, 2013 at 3:12 am

      People cannot use your banking app using ANY of these methods, even jailbreaking.

  26. Ang2013
    September 29, 2013 at 9:55 am

    My husband and I had what I thought was a happy marriage with 3 beautiful kids.  He was good to me, I frequently met people who would tell me that my husband talks about me constantly and boasts about how happy he is.  Even on social media I get embarrassed by the way he talks about me as if I'm the best thing ever.  One day while his phone was charging, a message buzzed in.  It was the secretary from the office.  "Hi Hun.  Call pls".  The word "hun" puzzled me.  I asked him and he offhandedly said oh we just all call each other that at the office.  I flew into a rage about how inappropriate it was and he promised to deal firmly with this insubordination. The red flag wouldn't go away, so I decided to install spy ware.  My goodness.  Turns out he was having an affair with this secretary since before our 3rd child; a third child he pressured me into having and planned coming up with names and buying things for the baby before I even conceived. Through the app I read some sick things they did together.  Worst of all, she would even remind him of our wedding anniversary and help him choose places to take me and order flowers.  I got endless info of how they arranged things. Favorite time to meet was 6.30am at her apartment.  My husband always often left home early because he wanted to be home by sunset to spend time with me.  I read messages by him to her like, "did you enjoy what I did to you this morning?". Her reply, "omg it was amazing, I can still feel it".  I don't need sympathy.  Just need to say that this app saved my life.  It helped me discover who my husband really was.  Even if any of you met this "wonderful Christian upright man" you would think I was lying.  To cut a long story short, I confronted without revealing app and during the "deny to the grave" stance most men initially have, I still saw messages from him to her like, "deny it, but when we meet I want you to cry uncontrollably for maximum effect etc"!!!  
    If I had taken the moral high road, I wonder what would have happened to me.  As far as I'm concerned, I wasn't just spying on him, I was protecting my emotional investment.

    • pat
      October 8, 2013 at 2:24 am

      what spy app did you use? I am going through the same emotional torment.

    • Eric
      December 29, 2014 at 10:02 pm

      I am having a similar problem only it is my wife having the affair. I need to know what you used to catch him? We have iphones and everyone keeps saying they have to be jailbroken to work with spyware. I do not wish to do that but do wish to install something that will let me know of my suspicions (which have been confirmed).

    • ash
      March 9, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      i have a similar problem. please share the app info. i know how it feels to go through that torture.

  27. bellak
    August 14, 2013 at 4:10 am

    the most amazing spyware i know in the market is the the keylogger BOSSPY because this application is really invisible. i dont find yet the way how to detect this app.
    anybody can use this freeware to spy anybody and the most terrible its free using

  28. maggiebear
    July 23, 2013 at 2:11 am

    hi - i just recently gave my friend my iphone to get fixed and they went to jailbreak it. I have suspision that there might be some spyware on it when it is returned to me, can someone please help me and tell me how i know if it has spyware on it and how i can detect it... and if they are infact spying on me how i can remove it from my phone? thank you

  29. Danny D
    June 19, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    How about this analogy... I work on a computer where I am employed. I do not own it and do not expect privacy when I am using it. It is clearly stated by my employer that it is being monitored. I know that they don't take the time to look at each and every email or website visited etc., but they have the capability and the right to do so. I have no trouble with that.
    Similarly, I own and pay for my child's iphone. It is my phone that I am allowing them to use. I make is clear that the phone is being monitored and that any activity on that phone is available for me to see if I so choose. I am not trying to trick them. I have no interest in looking at every little message they send or recieve, but I want them to understand that I have the capability to do so. Just as I can go into their room at any time.
    As long as everything is out in the open, as long as they understand they are being monitored, is that immoral or unethical? What do you think?

  30. Toni
    June 12, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I was worried my iphone 4s had spyware on it. The battery runs down very fast, even when I'm not using it. I have to charge it all the time. I tried your examples above for searching out Cydia and the others ... and I do not see obvious signs of a jailbreak. Just so I'm reading this right... there is no way to put spyware on the phone without jailbreaking it first? Thank you for your time.

  31. Colin J
    June 8, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Are any of the "remote install" spy software packages legit? If so, could they be used to track and record activity on a non jailbroken iphone4? I know this question sounds crazy, but I would just like a definitive answer so i can stop worrying about it...

    • Tim Brookes
      June 9, 2013 at 12:38 am

      No they are not. No iPhone spy packages are legit without a jailbreak, if someone wants to install something on your phone then they have to do it by jailbreaking.

      People who can track you with an iPhone are: those you approve on Find my Friends (unmetered tracking at all times) and anyone who has your Apple ID password (as they can login to iCloud and use Find my iPhone). A few other third party apps (Google Lattitude) might also share location, but there's no chance of anyone being able to view your calls, messages and so on without a jailbreak.

      • cjones
        June 9, 2013 at 8:20 pm

        Thank You,

        1 more.....is it possible for someone to remotely turn on my iphone4 bluetooth...my phone is not jailbroken...

        • Tim Brookes
          June 9, 2013 at 11:48 pm

          No it is not possible.

          If you have an iPhone, with standard Apple firmware on it (iOS) and you haven't gone out of your way to jailbreak or authorise others to view your location (via a means like Find My Friends) then you have nothing to worry about :)

        • Cjones
          June 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm

          Ok cool....as far as the non remote install...the kind that have to be installed on the target phone...do any of them actually relay exact screen images of the target phone to the spying phone in real time? For example if I took a picture or sent a text or visit a website would it pop up on the spying phone's screen?

          Thank You

        • Tim Brookes
          June 11, 2013 at 11:18 pm

          I do not know exactly what the non remote install packages do and do not capture, but I believe they create logs of information - so logs of texts, logs of call durations and recipients etc... rather than relaying a live image or via screenshots.

          This would probably be in the form of plain text files, probably fed straight into their online control panels.

    • JD
      July 1, 2013 at 11:45 pm

      Teen Safe is a remote monitoring site. I used it for my son's iPhone. Morally wrong or not, it gave me the information I needed to confirm he was still using drugs even though he swore he wasn't. In today's world, it's not always possible to trust that the things you taught your kids will stick, especially if they get involved with the wrong people.

    • Mike
      September 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Smart Parent JD....

  32. Leonard
    June 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    How can you say it's morally wrong to install spyware on a phone? Is it morally wrong to cheat on your spouse? Yes! What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I don't buy what you're saying, if someone is cheating on their spouse then they have no grounds to complain if their phone has spyware.

    • Tina Sieber
      June 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      You can't compare apples and oranges. Just because you suspect (!!!) that one person does something that is wrong, doesn't give you the right to wrong them, even if that helps you confirm your suspicion. It's not how morale works and it's also not how the legal system works.

      If you put spyware on a person's phone without their knowledge, you not only do something that's morally wrong, you also violate their privacy and that could be turned against you in court. So yes, they have every reason to complain!

      • 2 cents
        July 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm

        If someone does cheat and gets a std or worse HIV and in turn gives it to you shouldn't that b against the law? That Person is putting your health at risk. Stds can give a women scar tissue which can lead to infertility or a ectopic which could end in DEATH and worse case u can get HIV. I'm on the fence on spyware. I understand the legal laity of spyware if that i but I also know how your life can change due to a cheating spouse and the reality some are left with after the fact.

        • Tina Sieber
          July 5, 2013 at 6:22 pm

          Well, you have the responsibility and ability to protect yourself. If the relationship has eroded to the point that you suspect your partner might harm you, then you need to either end the relationship or work on it because it's seriously broken. Spying on your partner won't solve anything, it will only make things worse.

    • Tim Brookes
      June 9, 2013 at 12:39 am

      Tina's answer says it all, though what you've just said is "two wrongs make a right" and I don't believe that is true.

  33. Benji
    May 24, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    If you EVER have problems with your iPhone listen up. Ok let's say that you leave your iPhone out in the rain and you think it's ruined we'll listen to this trick. Try putting it into a bag of rice (completely bury it). Then over night, the rice attracts Asians that will fix your electronics for you. ????????????????

  34. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    April 30, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Parents should keep healthy communication with their children. It's much, much better than trying to spy on them. Trust me, they wouldn't respect you doing that, which will strain the communication even further. You don't want that, do you?

    • Tim Brookes
      April 30, 2013 at 1:15 am

      Children learn by example first and foremost, and so installing such software on their devices is only going to teach them that doing such a thing is acceptable when really, it's not. I didn't want to get too preachy about this in the article as we're a tech site, not a parenting site, but this is a definite concern of mine.

      Add this to the whole rip-off/security nightmare side of things and you've got a very compelling argument not to do this to your kids. On another note, I'm not sure how many employees would like the idea that their boss is monitoring every text, website visited AND where they are via GPS outside of work. I'm guessing there's some legal repercussions to be had here, though I don't think we've had a landmark case yet?

  35. Jack
    April 27, 2013 at 1:57 am

    Why do you hide the name of the company? You feature all the details and specifically leave this key information out!????

    • Tim Brookes
      April 27, 2013 at 2:21 am

      They were all found on page 1 of a Google search for iPhone spy software.

      I didn't want to give these companies any free publicity to be honest, I wouldn't like this article to help such companies gain customers as it will probably show up in search results before long and attract both those looking for info about spy software and those looking for the software itself, how detectable it is etc...

      I've re-blurred one of the images that featured a name now for uniformity. I don't think leaving the names out detracts from the message here.

  36. BDG
    April 26, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    You left the vendor's name visible in the first graphic (over Features) while blurring it everywhere else.

    • Tim Brookes
      April 26, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      Yeah I noticed that after but have you seen how many times it occurs? I figured a name and shame wouldn't go amiss just this once ;)

    • Tim Brookes
      April 27, 2013 at 2:23 am

      After more thought I've removed the name now, FYI.

  37. Scott M
    April 26, 2013 at 10:54 am

    With ever more slotting of consumers sorted into their tiny little exact buying trends through less than honest Public sites and third party cookies etc. this is very useful info for me.I have no doubt that some items are being sold to us that monitor our activity for market research and are sold to the highest bidder.Canada was going to allow the Chinese telecommunications system to help us with building an important leg of a new system.It was only stopped when news of Chinese manufacturers pre-installing tracking code witch allowed for accurate retrieval of data and info on some of their computers and phones that were assembled there and sold here.It was decided to stay with N.American and European methods for beefing up the specific part of the system.
    Not a paranoid rant just what happened.I'm not blaming China in particular just letting others know that certain high tech products and systems built in Foreign Countries have potential to data gather and spy.For large Corporations it must be very tempting to build a code to allow for analysis of consumer buying habits and to gain inside info on competitors or info on what they could add,based on spying,to make their product more specific to consumer wants at the expense of other honest players.Its a bad old world we live in sometimes.

    • Tim Brookes
      April 26, 2013 at 11:24 pm

      Actually that's very interesting, and while it's a bit of a leap away from the article subject I have also heard similar things. Particularly about Huawei, a Chinese government-owned (or part-owned, at least) telecommunications giant who are probably most famous for their cheapo Android smartphones.

      In actual fact Huawei make most of their money selling telecommunications gear to the rest of the world. They have the industry to produce this stuff faster and cheaper than everyone else, and so many countries have no option. I forget where I saw it but one installation was stopped over fears that installing Huawei network switches which would eventually serve confidential/sensitive data posed a threat "just in case". I also don't blame China as a whole, but there's no arguing the government is incredibly shady and manipulative - brazenly so. I also despair at the environmental wrongs occurring, but that's an entirely different topic!

    • lisa
      September 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      You said if these apps are installed on your phone you may have trouble running them? When I typed in these apps they got weird. I had a feeling someone put spyware on my phone I am trying to detect this. Apple nor attt will help they say they aren't that tech...Spy store says it will cost 3000 bc it is forensics... Can you help me see if it is on my phone with any further tips? If I restore my iphone can I get it off? I have the Iphone 5
      Thank you!

    • Tim B
      September 10, 2013 at 2:36 am

      Lisa – if you type in "Cydia" to Spotlight, does anything come up? What makes you think something has been installed on your phone, does it act up at all? Has your phone been outside of your possession recently?

      Restoring your phone in iTunes should indeed remove any traces of jailbreaking and spy software, so if you're really concerned then that wouldn't be a bad idea. Make sure you have a copy of your Camera Roll (photos and videos) first! Also make a backup of your phone in iTunes, which you can then restore afterwards.

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