As the name suggests stalkerware is a software that is used for monitoring/stalking activities. Since a stalkerware is also used for spying purposes, it can also be called a spyware. The so called “stalkerware” has also recently been in buzz, especially among the Android Phones.
Well then what is stalkerware ?
Stalkerware is considered as a malware amongst the cyber community. The spyware is used to enter into a device and steal its activity data. Data such as extracting a track of everything the user does like: phone calls, text messages, internet searches to streaming activities. Once installed on the device, stalkerware acts without the victim knowing that all the activities are being tracked and shared to the one who installed it on the victim’s device. It creates a breach in privacy to perform such activities. The design of a stalkerware changes with the purpose for what it was designed for.
Stalkerware can track different kinds of information. For example, one can monitor the victim’s SMS messages, while another beams the target’s location back home. As such, the design of each stalkerware changes depending on what it is designed to track. In reality stalkerware and spyware are different, even if they sound familiar.
Spywares are injected in the disguise of a legitimate program. It further sends the data to an unknown malicious agent. On the other hand, a stalkerware, doesn’t hide under a program, rather it displays its features and functionality to the user who’s willing to use it. In stalkerware the data is sent to the email address the user provides.
Another major difference between stalkerware and spyware is that a stalkerware is not installed on the user’s system rather it is installed on the device which they want to track. A spyware is downloaded by accident, whereas stalkerware is installed on devices the user wants to track.
When you start to think about all the things that could go wrong when browsing the Internet, the web starts to look like a pretty scary place.
Stalkerware on Android:
On google playstore there were a few stalkerware apps that Google took down. A list of some of those apps are given as follows:
- Phone Cell Tracker
- Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free
- Mobile Tracking
- Employee Work Spy
- Spy Kids Tracker
- Spy Tracker
- SMS Tracker
Unfortunately, Google Play has proven itself several times in the past to harbor malicious apps. For instance, the Google Play store harbored clipper malware on the Android store at one point.
These stalkerware apps were eventually taken down by Google. Now, let’s take a look at the functionalities of some of these apps. Below are the two examples of these malwares:
- The Employee Work Spy App
Employee Work Spy functioned in a similar way to SMS Tracker. The only difference was that the app took a more business-focused approach with its advertising. It would record all SMS, voice, and location activity of business smartphones so that bosses could keep tabs on their workers.
The app was designed by the developers to prevent employees from slacking off, leaking information, or to monitor the factors that are sensitive to the enterprise. Before installation of the app the workers received a description about the app before it was distributed in the phones.
- The SMS Tracker App
As the name suggests the app was designed to get the track of the SMS. On further inspection of SMS Tracker’s marketing copy, there were found even more spying tools that were stacked within the stalkerware.
The main focus of the app was to provide a means of parents to keep track of their children. The functionality was achieved by logging and sending concerned parents the details of everything their child did. The logs of data that was shared included SMS messages, phone logs, web browsing history, contact lists and even their location via GPS.
Stalkerwares were usually designed with good intentions. They were never designed to harm or steal from people. These apps’ main focus was to provide a solution to a given problem by checking on people and protecting them from harm.
Even if the objective of Stalkerware is at the right place, their methods aren’t ethical to get the solution of the given problem. It is beacuase of these tools that cause a huge breach of privacy and are the main reason why stalkerware has the malware label.
Greater than Android Problem:
Unfortunately, stalkerware is not just an Android issue. Any device that can have custom software run on it can theoretically suffer a stalkerware infected. Employee’s PCs can have it installed to check on how they use their work time, for instance. FlexiSpy is a good example of this. It was sold to jealous lovers who wanted to monitor their partner’s PC or mobile phone, and the developers made an entire business out of digital stalking.
How to Stop Stalkerware:
The problem with stalkerware is that it won’t show up on your app list if you hunt for it. That happens because the person who originally downloaded the malware deleted the main app to cover their tracks. The “remnants” of it are what is silently working in the background, tracking all of your data.
Unfortunately, if you use an antivirus program that can’t identify stalkerware, it will report a clean scan on an infected device. That’s why it’s better to do some research and find an antivirus that can tackle stalkerware. Kaspersky, for example, has updated its antivirus to find and remove this menace.
If you want to ensure your device is clean of stalkerware, a factory reset is the best option. A full reset will clear out the remnants of the original app and allow you to get your privacy back. It’s more of a hassle than running an antivirus, but there’s no chance of any remnants lurking undetected in the background.
Once you’re sure your phone is clean, you should lock down your phone to prevent the culprit from re-installing it. Put a strong password on your phone and keep it on your person at all times so it doesn’t get reinfected.
Protection from Stalkerware:
Stalkerware is a serious problem which can cause a huge privacy breach for its victims. While there is no certain way to tell that it’s installed on your system, it’s easy to remove any traces and prevent reinfection. If you need a decent antivirus, be sure to try out the best antivirus apps for Android.
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