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I recently came across FamiSafe, a child monitoring app, through one of my friends which gives a lot of information about the activities of the mobile phone. I was awestruck as it gives a detailed information about the location, browser history, etc.

That got me thinking:

  • how is it possible for an application to access what websites are visited through a browser?
  • How is it possible for this app to know that a person has searched or visited a website and record it and show the same in the application?
  • Does this app interact with the OS for website data?

Since it gives data irrespective of browsers I assume it has nothing to do with the browser used. Instead, it has to be something directly to be dealt with. Anyone has any idea how this works?

The device is OnePlus 5 running Android 7.

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    The common way for an app to get the data of visited sites is to register as VPN service, monitor the traffic and extract the visited servers. For HTTPS connections this only works before TLS 1.3 is widely used (supported Android 10+). – Robert Aug 26 '19 at 9:46
  • @Robert but destination IP in packet header won't be encrypted, right? – Irfan Latif Aug 26 '19 at 10:05
  • @Irfan Yes, but if the server is e.g. hosted by a cloud provider like Amazon where hundreds of hosts share the same IP and the IP frequently changes how much data can you then derive from knowing the server IP? – Robert Aug 26 '19 at 10:55
  • @Robert correct. I just asked to validate my understanding. – Irfan Latif Aug 26 '19 at 10:57
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That app uses Accessibility service (originally meant to assist users with disabilities) to read what is being displayed on the window. It also uses app usage permission to track what app is being used at a time. Combine the two features and the app can know when a web browsing app is active, and what is being typed in there and displayed there. That app has already declared in its description on Play Store that it uses the said service. Under Web Content Filtering & Web Monitoring heading, it states:

This app uses Accessibility service to limit app usage and keep your children from internet dangers

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