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I am using an Android phone. Is it possible for spyware to transmit data even when I don't have any internet plan/connection? Can it use some other way, say, cellular network etc.?

EDIT1: SMS and calls in my mobile are chargeable, so if any spying software uses these ways to send call recordings or surrounding recordings or any data, I should be able to do find out. Would your reply change in this scenario?

EDIT2: I suspect my roommate has installed spyware in my Android phone. He is not a hacker. So, he has to rely on spywares available out there, free or paid. So are there such spywares available in market, which can work without internet connection?

  • All SMS are chargable? Even those to free numbers, say 1-800-4NSA-CIA ? – MSalters Nov 18 '13 at 13:53
  • could u plz explain this no. ? – user2917687 Nov 18 '13 at 13:58
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    You were assuming that you could detect spyware from the presence of billing records. That's not necessarily the case, and certainly not when you're being spied upon by professionals. – MSalters Nov 18 '13 at 14:02
  • i am not worried about CIA/NSA. my worry is my roomate being the culprit. he has to rely on spywares available in market. are there such spywares in market, free or paid, which do not need internet connection ? – user2917687 Nov 18 '13 at 14:06
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There are other two options that come to mind:

  • text messages
  • caching of information

Text messages was shown by Georgia Weidman back in 2011. The botnet comms ran through SMS. So you can imagine it can be quite easy to spread information by SMS.

The other option would be to store the information you used and upload it the next time you have an internet connection. This might be when you connect to the internet through Wifi or internet connection sharing when updating your smartphone.

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21

Yes, it's possible. A malware can simply utilize the SMS functionality in your phone to transmit formatted data from and to your phone. Heck, it might even use DTMF.

Update: After your edits, your question turned from acceptable to really bad. In any case, the most plausible scenario here is via Bluetooth.

However, I think you're just very paranoid and/or you have some troubles with your roommate. Solving this issues can't be done with hacking/counter-hacking.

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8

If your roommate got access to your phone once to install spyware, what's to stop him finding another opportunity to read the cached results of the surveillance?

Who needs a data connection?

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A piece of mobile phone malware could be designed to use any communications technology the mobile can access. If a phone doesn't have internet access it could send texts for example. There are considerations with each connection method:

  • Internet access: this is pretty cheap or free for the malware to use, as long as the malware is not too greedy it is unlikely that it would ever be noticed. File sizes could be big if needed. The malware could connect to a single or a set of command and control servers, making collection of data and management of the malware easy. Even if you don't have a mobile data plan your phone will almost certainly have WiFi connectivity which could be used to send data
  • Bluetooth: this is free for use, however its range limitations make it unlikely a malware writer would try to use it to transmit information - it would have to come into range of something it could transmit through. It could be used to propogate the malware though
  • SMS/MMS: Malware could be written to use text and picture messaging to transmit data. Depending on what data the malware is designed to capture this may or may not be practical due to the limitations on message size. Things like usernames and passwords, credit card information, and bank account details are small and valuable, so SMS transmission would be completely practical. In many plans texts cost, so if malware sent lots of texts it could be discovered. Anyone looking would be able to determine the number of the receiving device for such texts, leading to a possible trace, so texting is inherently more risky for the malware writer. However the risks may be worth it.

So, if you don't have an internet connection on your phone are you safe? No, an attacker would still be able to send information on your phone using other means. Having no internet connection would make you much less likely to get infected in the first place though.

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  • i did not get first point. when i dont have data plan how could a spyware use internet ? – user2917687 Nov 18 '13 at 13:52
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    I don't know of a smartphone that doesn't have WiFi built in, internet connectivity via WiFi would give malware a way to send data. – GdD Nov 18 '13 at 14:38
  • yes built in wifi is there. but let us say there is no wifi router in my place. now is it possible ? – user2917687 Nov 18 '13 at 14:42
  • Is NFC using Bluetooth? – Aaron Digulla Nov 18 '13 at 15:11
  • @user2917687, yes, even if you have no WiFi access it could still use SMS/MMS. – GdD Nov 18 '13 at 15:15
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If the smartphone's design uses shared memory architecture between the application processor and baseband1 processor2, then the baseband firmware can deliver anything inside the RAM, such as encryption keys and other sensitive data, back to an attacker or a C&C server. An OTA protocol3 over specially crafted Class 0 SMS messages can be used to ensure these transactions remain hidden from the user/operating system.

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  • +1 for good/useful technical detail about the fundamental qualities in phones that allow potentially very easy transmission of data over a covert SMS channel. (Even if in this case the attacker is less likely to be NSA or FSB in this particular case and more likely to either be someone/something mundane.) – mostlyinformed Feb 10 '16 at 19:24
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Simple scenario: There is spyware on your phone which simply collects the data, then waits for you to walk around until it gets close to an open or predefined WiFi network where it will dump it's payload. It can even check whether you look at the screen to make sure you never see the "I'm not connected to a WiFi network" icon as you walk through the streets or sit in a lesson at your school (where the phone has a lot of time and leisure to rat on you).

The same scenario is also possible with NFC and Bluetooth. In that case, they have a device which the spyware connects to and they just have to get near you (for example in your sleep or while you ride the train).

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Given the close living quarters of the subjects in question, it would stand to reason that Bluetooth or NFC would be the preferred method of data transfer. And if we're dealing with an android OS, i can tell you from person experience it's a nothing deal to turn NFC or Bluetooth functionality on- even if you have them disabled in your settings. Both of mine are disabled, yet half the time I check the running processes through the developer tools of my HTC One M8, those processes (along with a number of other pre-installed "services" and non-removable "apps") are constantly running anyway. Things such as "EasyAccesSservice" and "SmartcardService (remote)", Battery Manager (remote), Visual Voicemail both by itself and with a second entry that has "(remote)" next to it, SIM Toolkit, and NFC Service with the little Bluetooth icon next to it despite NFC and Bluetooth both being turned "off". It's more than a little aggravating. But the best one of all is com.client.appA which is the only process without an icon and from what I've read on android development forums, it's an executable associated with Celebrite- which is a professional (govt) grade phone hacking and data extraction solution. FinFisher is another. Promotional videos for both can be found on YouTube. Or to see Celebrite's capability (along w/ several competing govt grade solutions) on a variety of popular phones, go here: http://www.cfreds.nist.gov/mobile. And yes, that site is for real and legit unfortunately. Scary stuff.

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