Someone I have been dating has suddenly bought me a brand new iPhone. I have legitimate reasons for harbouring a niggling suspicion that this could be a ruse to steal passwords and bank details, just as I am about to receive a large sum of money.

I am about to fly out to stay with my new flame, and the plan is that I shall effect the transfer of all my iPhone data to this new, potential Trojan Horse, while I am there.

Are there ways I can find out if my suspicions are founded while also safeguarding my information before transferring all my current iPhone's data to this new one? (I don't know the model yet).

In other words:

  1. How could I detect any spyware so that I will know for sure?

  2. Would performing a factory reset erase any spyware installed?

  3. I understand spyware could 'hide' in the system partition, can I root it out?

  4. Could a hardware-based chip have been installed for the same purpose? If so, how could I find out?

  • 2
    Might be off-topic, but if your first reaction to a gift of someone you've been dating is that they'll likely try to harm you with it, then that relationship is not based on mutual trust and is thus destinied to fail.
    – user163495
    Jan 1, 2022 at 6:52
  • 1
    I know, but how does one find out that mutual trust is justified, in a world where older people - especially women - are routinely targeted by those intent on scamming them? I WANT to believe, but perhaps you have come across the quote "Trust in God... but tie-up your camel?" (Simbad the Sailor, film 1947) PS This is not the first gift, and I was already taken aback by the others, not lavish but consistent, and including gifts of cash, wholly unsolicited... - If anything the reason I am getting a little suspicious, it's as though they were meant to have me take this one in my stride?
    – user272208
    Jan 1, 2022 at 6:56
  • 1
    We can deal with the iPhone thing. We can't give relationship advice or tell you if your suspicions are founded.
    – schroeder
    Jan 1, 2022 at 9:44
  • What's more important? To detect spyware or to ensure the device is clean?
    – schroeder
    Jan 1, 2022 at 9:46

1 Answer 1

  1. If you want proof of spyware, you have a challenge: you would never be sure that your flame installed it or was a victim of it.

    1a. To look for spyware, you could install a spyware scanner and simply look. That has obvious limitations. You would need to get the phone to an expert to forensically analyse. This is not something you do yourself.

  2. Factory resets return everything to defaults and removes all spyware.

  3. If your flame was able to hide working spyware so deep that a reset could not remove it, then you have bigger problems than potential spyware looking for your bank details.

  4. No, one cannot "install" chips on a phone.

  • Thank you Shroeder. I am looking for certainty, either way. I would like to know whether I am the victim of a dating scam, (pretty likely perpetrated by an organised crime ring), and would immediately inform the authorities, and even collaborate with them to stop others falling prey to it. Even if it should be shown to be clean, I decided I am not inclined to accept the 'phone, TBH, I don't feel I need it and even as a genuine gift, this early in a relationship I don't feel it is appropriate. I believe expensive gifts prostitute romance, and I would rather have love than 'stuff'.
    – user272208
    Jan 2, 2022 at 10:13
  • "I want to protect others" is a noble goal, but rarely practical. "So that the police can bring down a crime ring" you are making an incredible number of assumptions and catastrophising someone's gift of a phone. If you are this worried, accept the phone, but don't use it.
    – schroeder
    Jan 2, 2022 at 12:43
  • @Robert I'm very comfortable with it as it is with "install" in quotes ... That allows for non-absolute statements, and, I hoped, would forestall symantic debates while answering the OPs question at the tech knowledge level of the asker ....
    – schroeder
    Jan 8, 2022 at 14:28

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