Technology has advanced from its rudimentary forms to being the “go-to” products for every human on the planet. Known for its convenience and ease, technological offerings have brought about a new lease of life as we’ve deviated from the regular and traditional ways of accomplishing tasks.
However, while the positives are noteworthy, some individuals (hackers) have created software that pose a cybersecurity threat worldwide – stalkerware.
Stalkerware, as the name suggests, are apps that are implanted in a target device for 24/7 monitoring. Since hackers can install these apps remotely, the target might not even have an idea that they’re being monitored closely. This monitoring form is widely used by abusers who’d like to keep tabs on their victim’s whereabouts at all times.
According to a recent report, while stalkerware had become quite famous in the years gone by, 2020 saw a reduction in stalkerware operations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people were mostly indoors. Thus, with the possibility of an abuser and their victims staying under the same roof ranking high, there was no need to engage sophisticated technology.
Although these facts might send a chill down your spine, now’s not the time to focus on the negative repercussions. In this article, we’ll look at how you can spot stalkerware apps and practical measures to ensure safety. With your security being a priority at any given point, let’s head right in!
What Can Stalkerware Track?
With a stalkerware app installed on a victim’s device, round-the-clock monitoring is possible. However, what can stalkerware track? Let’s take a look at some things these malicious apps can perpetrate. They include:
- Tracking someone’s precise location.
- Accessing the victim’s call log and seeing who they’ve called and whose calls they’ve received alongside timestamps.
- Monitoring messages from instant messaging apps as well as social media platforms.
- Activating their cameras (front & back) to see where the target is located and what they’re doing.
- Triggering a user’s microphone remotely to listen to what’s happening in the background.
While stalkerware can dampen the defenses of a mobile device, these are the primary reasons people use stalkerware. Since it’s a remote activity, the target is kept in the dark.
However, with this article, we’re changing the narrative. Get a hold of some ways to see if there’s stalkerware on your cell phone in the following lines.
How to Check If Someone Is Stalking You on Your Phone?
While hackers have become sophisticated in their dealings, there are some ways you can ascertain the potential presence of a stalkerware app on your device. To be successful in this activity, it’s crucial to follow these steps to the latter:
Go Through Your Administrator App List
This step is effortless to carry out. Head to Settings and click on “Security.” When you come across a list of apps you’ve authorized for administrator activities, ensure you’re on the lookout for some strange APKs in the mix.
Most times, these unknown apps could be stalkerware carrying out processes in the background.
Check Permissions You’ve Granted Certain Apps
When you download apps on your device (Android & iOS), your phone might give you varying permission prompts. Sometimes, without granting permissions to these apps, they might work differently or “misbehave.”
Although this shouldn’t be a concern with apps from reputable app stores, you mustn’t grant access to applications with a wide range of permissions. Why? It might be stalkerware as malicious software requires broader permissions to operate seamlessly.
For instance, when a gaming app notifies you to allow “weird” permissions like call logs, be on high alert and avoid such offerings.
Use Various Internet Resources
If you have a hunch that a stalker might be accessing your device remotely, there are some reliable Internet resources to confirm whether or not the rumors are true.
One reliable Internet resource is stopstalkerware. With the mantra “Coalition Against Stalkerware,” this remote entity founded in 2019 seeks to help victims break free of their stalkers.
On this site, you get numerous pointers on how you can identify and protect your devices from multiple stalkerware formats.
How to Remove Stalkerware From Your Phone?
So, let’s say you’ve employed the above pointers, and there’s a stalkerware app lurking around your device’s storage. What do you do? Can you remove it?
Well, the answer to both questions is yes. Let’s take a look at some practical ways to remove stalkerware from your cell phone.
Run a Malware Scan
Stalkerware is a malware form that you can delete with an antivirus scan. With so many antivirus alternatives on the market, it’s crucial to go with a proven medium.
However, it’s important to note that certain types of stalkerware might remain undetected despite numerous scams. Thus, while it’s a popular stalkerware removal method, it isn’t 100% effective.
Change Your Passwords
While this might seem like a “rule of thumb,” changing passwords to all the accounts on your cell phone is crucial. To ensure that the possibility of a hack remains at the barest minimum, use a password generator to craft “uncrackable” codes.
Activate 2FA on Your Device
2FA acts as a fail-safe if the first line of the device’s defense falters. By activating this nifty add-on available on both Android and iOS devices, you protect your accounts as someone who monitors your phone illegally still has to input an extra code for unfettered app access.
Download the Latest OS Updates
If there’s a phone stalking app on your phone, downloading OS updates from your device’s manufacturer is essential. Typically, newly released updates come with security patches vital in removing malware of any kind, stalkerware inclusive.
Factory Reset Your Device
Factory resetting your device should be considered when everything else fails. By performing this action, any stalkerware on your phone should be removed instantly. However, before you start, transfer or backup important files, as they’ll be unretrievable after a factory reset.
On Android, carry out the following steps:
- Head to Settings.
- Click on “General” or “General Management.”
- Go to “Reset.”
- Tap on “Factory Data Reset.”
On iOS devices, do the following:
- Go to Settings.
- Tap on the “General” icon.
- Click on Reset.
Note: Before going through with this option, you’ll receive a prompt to confirm your readiness. Click a suiting icon to kick-start the factory reset process. Upon completion, your phone is as good as new!
Stalkerware can be used on you by those who are closest to you. It could be your lover, best friend, or even a family member. Sometimes, you’ll never know who’s monitoring your activities daily.
However, if there’s one thing you can be sure of, that’ll be protecting yourself from these malicious applications. Although it might require you to follow specific steps, they’re hassle-free, and you don’t need to be tech-savvy to engage them.