Cerberus Anti – Theft Application Review: Things it can and cannot do

It doesn’t matter how careful you are, there is always a possibility that your phone will end up in the hands of a thief despite of all our efforts. Yes, you can stay focused and extra careful each time you deal with your phone but let’s face it, staying completely focused on your phone is not our primary job. Is there a better alternative to tackle this problem?

Fortunately, there are anti-theft apps that can handle the problem and it only demands the user to install a specific application and that’s it. We tested all the popular anti theft apps and Cerberus app wins the crown, so let’s find out, what it can and cannot do.

Note: Cerberus app is a paid app that offers 6 days free trial.

According to the developer, there are three ways to protect your device aka “3 heads” of Cerberus:

– Remote control through the website https://www.cerberusapp.com
– Remote control via SMS (text messages) from another phone
– Automatic alerts

Cerberus Anti – Theft Application Review

Setup

The setup part is quite initiative.

  1. Just head over to the play store and download the Cerberus app and install it.
  2. After the first installation, the application demands all the permission from the user and it is highly recommended you grant them all to use the app’s full functionality.
  3. Cerberus also ask for system administrator permission (there is a small wizard in this section which will guide the user)
  4. The next screen will ask the user to use existing Cerberus account or user can create new Cerberus account. The new account provides 6 days free trial version after which the app will ask for yearly subscription prices depending upon the device count you choose( 6 $/Year for 1 device)
  5. For a new account, fill in the details like username and password along with valid E-mail ID.

The user will receive an E-mail after successfully creating an account and it contains an overview of how Cerberus remote commands work (we suggest you read the complete email to understand the syntax of the commands). After successful registration, you will be welcomed by the main configuration window. The interface is mainly divided into three categories i.e Main Configuration, Automatic Photo capture and SIM Checker respectively

Main Configuration

Cerberus claims that it does many cool things like taking pictures of an intruder, remote wipe, remote video capture etc. but how many of those claims are worth it, let’s dig into each and every feature and find out.

Remote Commands
The feature that Cerberus advertises is that it can remotely control the device using SMS commands. It works something like this

  1. You send a command from registered mobile number in this specific formatted string [Keyword][Password][Command] (without brackets)
  2. Cerberus will respond the remote mobile with action corresponding to the command sent

We tested this remote controlling functionality and it works quite well, here’s what we sent

-> [cerberus][xxxxxxxx][find]  (without brackets) -> cerberus xxxxxxxx find

(default keyword is ‘cerberus’, password is set during registration, command is ‘find’)

We received the location of the phone as a response.

 

 

The main configuration windows have an option to change the keyword into something which is known to you as it kind of acts like a second password.

Here is the list of remote commands that can be executed

cerberus password find              (to locate your device)
cerberus password siminfo         (to get SIM card info)
cerberus password lock code        (to lock your device with a password)
cerberus password unlock          (to unlock your device)
cerberus password alarm text      (to display a message and play alarm)  
cerberus password message text  (to display a message)
cerberus password speak text   (to make the device speak a message)
cerberus password call number  (to call a phone)
cerberus password takepicture    (to take a picture & send it to your email)
cerberus password capturevideo   (take a video & send it to your email)
cerberus password screenshot    (to grab a screenshot & mail) 
cerberus password wipe      (to wipe your device memory)
cerberus password wipesd    (to wipe the SD card)
cerberus password enabledata    (to enable data access on your device)
cerberus password enablewifi    (to enable WiFi )
cerberus password disabledata     (to disable data access )
cerberus password disablewifi     (to disable WiFi)
cerberus password enableroaming   (to enable data roaming)
cerberus password enablebluetooth (to enable Bluetooth)
cerberus password disablebluetooth (to disable Bluetooth)
cerberus password reboot        (to reboot the device)

As an anti theft app, it has the capability to hide from the application menu. In such scenario, we can access the application by dialing some code from the phone dialer.The main configuration password section allows us to change that dialing code as well.We changed the dial code to ‘123456789’ and tested it using default phone dialer and it works like a charm.

Under device administration of main configuration category, we also have a master switch to enable or disable the Cerberus functionality completely which is handy just in case if the user doesn’t want to use the app in certain situations.

Protect Device Admin

There is one cool feature that makes this app unique and that is ‘Protect Device Admin’. Consider a situation where a thief tries to uninstall the Cerberus application then the app forces the user to go to device administration settings and remove admin privileges for Cerberus. This feature will ask for a password if the user wants to remove the privileges making it extremely hard for the thief to uninstall the application.

Fake Shutdown

Cerberus has a trick up its sleeve using which we can block the power menu when the device is locked. We tried to use this feature but it didn’t work so this may work for some phones but not all. The latest update has added something called as ‘Fake Shutdown’ which tricks the user and mimics every action of phone shutting down( like off screen and shut down vibration pattern)                                                                                

However, we found that even if it looks as if the phone is shutting down if you touch the fingerprint sensor the phone vibrates a little and makes phone unlocking sound. A clever person can easily conclude that only the screen is off and all the phone functionality in working in the background making this new feature completely useless.                                                                                            

Block Status Bar 

One more feature from this tricky category is ‘Block Status Bar’. As the thief can access the quick toggle menu even if the phone is locked, where the developer tries to block the quick setting menu by blocking any status bar related functionality on a locked phone.

This feature works great but not without a loophole. The loophole can be accessed like this, when the status bar is locked we should not be able to drop down quick settings menu but we can drop it if we receive a text message.The text message notification provides a handle to drop the menu down which makes locking the status bar useless( tested on one plus 3).

Remote Upload & Wipe

The next section of main configuration screen deals with remotely backing up the data or wiping it. We can upload the data to either Google Drive or Dropbox by linking these accounts with Cerberus in this menu. In case of remotely wiping the data, we have switches that allow us to select between internal storage and SD card.

Automatic Photo Capture

This is a great way to keep thieves as well as stalkers away, here the Cerberus will capture a photo of a person who has entered a wrong password after certainly failed attempts( we can also configure the number of failed attempts). A cool thing about this facility is that the captured photo is immediately sent to the registered mail ID making it super easy to find the person from the photo.

 

SIM Checker

The first thing a clever thief will do after grabbing the phone is he will remove the SIM card. The developer has found a more clever way to deal with this type of situation. The SIM number is stored as an authorized SIM number in the Cerberus app at the time of registration. SIM number of the card in the sim slot is also checked. If authorized SIM number and current SIM slot numbers are same then everything is fine.if not then someone has changed the SIM and in this case, the application will send the information of this new SIM and device location to the registered mobile numbers.

Autotask Configuration

This section is like a mini tasker, we can set up certain events like a geofence (certain area from the map). We can also set up certain conditions like battery percentage below 15 and in all these situates we can trigger some tasks. The tasks can be like taking a picture or use the back camera only etc. This section has no limit as the user can use his own creativity to design different events and their corresponding triggers.

Cerberus Anti – Theft Application Review

After looking at all the features and tricks, the best choice available in the market right now is Cerberus. Though some features are innovative, they are not well polished and some loopholes can just kill the whole security claim. You can try Cerberus and let us know about your experience in the comments section below

About Pushkar Terwadkar

Main interest includes Technical Research in the area of Artificial Intelligence. Other Interests are Android Phone Hacking, Astronomy, Modern Physics.