How to get rid of operator popup spam messages on Android

Image: Pixabay

First of all, mobile operators normally do not send you spam without your permission. You must have given permission in the past, if you are receiving spam. You must have signed a paper, opted-in for something, clicked a link or installed their mobile app and accepted their terms & conditions in the past. You always have the option to call your operator and tell them that you want to opt-out from those special offer messages and ads.

Well, if this is not an option for you, you always have other workarounds.

If you are receiving spam messages or even popups, the first thing you must do is to identify the spam channel (sender app) to block messages.


1) Sim Toolkit (STK) popup messages:

I’d like to write the worst one firts. A popup message may appear usually with one accept and one decline button offering a paid service by the operator.

(Operator is offering some gigabytes, minutes etc… with a popup message. Sorry for the screenshot not in English, but you can easily understand what is going on.)

This kind of spam messages can be sent by operators using the Sim Toolkit (STK) Application in Android OS. The STK app can be used to display operator specific menus, can also be used to display annoying popups. As it is not a system notification, but a popup, it is hard to detect that it is a STK popup message. Also, STK menu is operator dependant and some of them may have an option for opt-out built in their menu.

In my condition, I was not be able to disable STK app from the device settings. The STK app was a system application and could not be uninstalled or disabled from application settings in the phone GUI. In the app settings menu for STK app in Huawei P10 lite running EMUI 8 and Android Oreo, “Disable” button was grayed out and disabled. I was able to force-stop the app but it was always surviving after a phone reboot.

Luckily I have already found a way to disable a system app on Android without root permissions. Altough removing a system app was not possible in Android without root but, disabling an app for a single user was possible. After downloading and installing my phone software (drivers) and Miniamal Adb to my computer, I have enabled USB debugging on phone and used the following commands to disable STK app.

adb shell pm disable-user
adb shell am force-stop

If the STK application still survives after phone reboot, you can try the other multi-user method I have written in the article.

2) WAP push messages:

Wap push messages appear like popup messages. It is relatively easy to disable wap push messages. Simply open your SMS  messaging application, go to settings and disable wap push messages.

For Huawei running Android Oreo & EMUI 8, this is SMS app -> Settings -> Advanced -> disable “WAP push service”.

3) 3rd party app notifications or popups:

There may be an operator related Android application you have installed or your device comes bundled with it. If it is a notification that disturbing you, after pulling the notification bar, long press the notification and open up application settings. Android have the option to disable notifications for a specific app. If it is not a notification but a popup crafted by their companion app, open the application and search for a setting to disable these popups. As a last resort you have the option to uninstall or disable the app. If it is a system application and you cannot uninstall it, you can disable it. It is similar to disabling the STK app described above.

# List all packages, get package name 
adb shell pm list packages
# Disable the system application for the current user with package manager 
adb shell pm disable-user <packagename>
# After disabling an app, you can force stop it using activity manager if it is still running 
adb shell am force-stop <packagename>

4) Cell Broadcast Messages (CBS):

Actually, I have never seen a real-world situation of receiving spam through cell broadcast messages. I guess operators reserve this for mostly emergency situations.

Anyway, if you receive spam through CBS (unfortunately & luckily I don’t have a screenshot for this), open up your SMS application, go to settings and try to find an option to disable CBS. There is also an option for channel configuration and you can disable some channels preserving emergency messages.

Of course, as a last resort, you have the option to disable cell broadcast application (with the method described above), but this meens you will not be able to receive emergency broadcast messages (earthquakes etc…) anymore. 

5) USSD messages:

USSD is usually the technology behind the message telling your credits left with a popup after a phone call on pre-paid lines. There are various applications for Android that block USSD messages or convert them to ordinary notifications.

USSD Notifications

USSD Blocker -Blocks USSD Notification

USSD Notifications

6) Ordinary short messages (SMS):

Spam sent with SMS in these days is no longer a big issue compared to the past. Android message application and all vendor applications have built-in blacklist features for a long time. Just open your SMS application and add sender to blacklist. Disabling the dafault SMS application is technically possible but should not be an option as SMS channel is most likely be used for administrative messages. SMS is the most popular channel, is decades old and you usually need it for administrative purposes



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