There is a valid reason we have PIN passcodes and fingerprint/face scans to unlock our smartphones. From our credit cards to photos, our smartphones have vaults of personal information. Consider also that smartphones contain the most intimate information and records of our conversations. To share the information on our phones with someone else might be considered the ultimate trust, especially in this generation. But how do we know that someone isn’t privy to our information without our knowledge?
Stalkerware is a type of malware that records data on a device and sends it to another unknown third-party device without the victim knowing. This sounds a lot like spyware (like keyloggers and clip malware), so what separates stalkerware from spyware? Where spyware is secretly while you are unaware of its installation on a device, stalkerware is advertised to the victim as a legitimate program. For example, a fake calculator app could be installed on a device, and in addition to acting as a calculator, it could be sending all your information to someone else.
Stalkerware is mostly marketed to people who lack trust in other people, be it spouse, children, or employees. The most common cases of stalkerware are when suspicious spouses install an SMS reader to ensure that their spouses are being faithful, or when a parent installs a program on their child’s phone to monitor their web browsing habits. In some companies, employers may install some sort of monitoring software on company devices to ensure that the devices are only being used for work.
To avoid stalkerware being installed on your computer, do not leave it unattended. Most stalkerware requires physical access to install it on a device. Antivirus software can also detect malware like stalkerware on a system.
Unless it is jailbroken, it is near impossible to install stalkerware on an iPhone. Android phones and computers are much more susceptible to this malware. While there is no clear sign or flag marking stalkerware, be aware of the apps or services that you add to your phone. This knowledge will make the identification of stalkerware much easier. Follow the steps below to check if your device has any stalkerware on it:
- Go to the Resource monitor on a PC or Mac and view all the running programs to search for any program running that you are unfamiliar with.
- On Android go into your settings and do Apps and Notifications then tap See all apps to check for any apps you are unfamiliar with.
Note: The stalkerware may be disguised as a service and not an application, making it much harder to find.
Batt, S. (2019, December 16). What Is Stalkerware and How Does It Affect Android Phones? Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/what-is-stalkerware/
HowToFind.com. (2019, November 02). What Is Stalkerware? Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://howtofind.com/what-is-stalkerware
Nield, D. (2020, July 19). How to Check Your Devices for Stalkerware. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from https://www.wired.com/story/how-to-check-for-stalkerware/