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Is there a way to take control of an android phone and to send SMS from it without the owner noticing?

Let me explain :

My niece (12yo) have been accused of sending insulting text message to several of her classmate over the last week but she denies it and there is no record of these SMS on her phone.

In doubt, I've seized her phone last friday to sort this out and it happened again yesterday but this time the phone was out of reach from her so i'm 100% sure she didn't do it.

Please note that :

  1. I called my operator who confirmed that a SMS was sent yesterday.
  2. I asked the kid to send me a screenshot of the sms he received to make sure he wasn't just lying.

Anyone knows what's going on here?

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    The device used by your niece must be having some apps (read: rogue) which have the permission android.permission.SEND_SMS. Try a permission checker app, such as this app to filter out apps having permission to send an sms. If you're familiar with command-line, see my answer: android.stackexchange.com/a/123100/96277 – Firelord Feb 1 '16 at 15:21
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    Once you're done filtering them, post the result in your question and begin removing all of them (you won't be able to remove stock messaging app or any system app there), wait for some time and see if the issue persist. // The thing that is bugging me is that if it is a work of some random rogue app, then why does it send messages to the known contacts? – Firelord Feb 1 '16 at 15:23
  • I installed a permission checker and the only apps with SEND_SMS where from the package "System". – Alfwed Feb 2 '16 at 8:25
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    Try another permission checker and compare the results of both. At least the default messaging app should've been listed in the results. Try my command-line method if the other app also shows the same result. And post the results using a screenshot. – Firelord Feb 2 '16 at 14:31
  • Almost sounds as if someone is forwarding the SMS to your nieces phone. There wouldn't be any record of the SMS being sent, so it would give the impression that a rogue app is to blame. I tried to search out possible solutions, but I wasn't able to find a way to track/log forwarded SMS from another device. The best I can suggest is to contact the service carrier and explain it to them again. They should be able to let you know who is forwarding it to your nieces phone. – HasH_BrowN Mar 7 '16 at 19:01
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Most definitely, non-system applications can send SMS messages, and then delete them from the history. I use PushBullet all the time to send SMS messages using an app on my Windows desktop, via a corresponding app on my mobile phone. See pushbullet.com.

On more recent versions of Android (you haven't said what you're running) non-standard apps have to be explicitly permitted to send SMS messages. This permission can be enabled and disabled in the system settings. Exactly where in the settings depends on the version of Android you're running. On some systems, go to "Settings" -> "Networks" -> "More" and then find "Default messaging app" or "Defalt SMS app".

Also, "Device administrator" apps can get increased access to your system, which may include access to SMS. Check "Device administrators" in the "Security" settings to see a list of apps, and to remove them if required.

Also, consider uninstalling any apps that you don't recognise, or even doing a factory reset.

  • Which Android version are you using? Ability to enable/disable a dangerous permission was officially added only in Android 6.0. However, there had been multiple stock ROMs in past shipped with some kind of privacy control available from Settings app. – Firelord Mar 7 '16 at 9:19
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The safest way is to reset the entire phone. Go to the phone settings and choose the option to set your entire phone on default settings and erase all data and apps.

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    This is a sound recommendation. If there's one prank or malware app on the phone, there are probably more. – Dan Hulme Mar 7 '16 at 14:27
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    Factory reset would not be able to solve the problem if there exists a system malware app. Let's see however if factory reset solves the problem for OP. – Firelord Mar 7 '16 at 14:45

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