The rise of remote work has brought about not just increased employer surveillance but also a surge in the use of stalkerware. In our exploration, we’ll delve into what stalkerware is, its various types, and practical steps on how to detect and remove these invasive apps from your mobile devices. Let’s ensure you stay one step ahead in safeguarding your digital privacy.
Stalkerware, a commercially available spyware, isn’t just a tool for employers monitoring remote workers. It’s increasingly being used by individuals to spy on personal relationships. In 2021, smartphone malware detections hit an all-time high, reaching 54,677 alerts according to cybersecurity service Malwarebytes. Unlike government agencies, which use spyware, it is private individuals who deploy stalkerware, making it not just unethical but downright creepy.
Types of Stalkerware Apps and Their Intrusive Functionalities
While cybersecurity experts haven’t assigned exact names to different stalkerware apps, we can categorize them based on the information they collect. From monitoring communications to tracking locations and even stealing files, these apps go beyond invading privacy. Popular ones like Cerberus and Reptillicus operate stealthily, accessing messages, texts, photos, and videos. Here’s a glimpse of some common stalkerware apps and their global impact:
|Number of Affected Users Globally
|Track My Phones
Detecting and Removing Stalkerware Apps on Your Mobile Devices
Smartphones are prime targets for stalkerware due to their accessibility and the wealth of data they store. Signs of malware include unusual behavior, rapid battery depletion, and high data usage. To protect yourself, employ these techniques:
For iOS Devices:
- Scan for unfamiliar apps: Manually check for unknown apps.
- Check for unknown configuration profiles: Head to Settings > General > VPN & Device Management.
- Search for signs of a jailbreak: Look for unusual apps or the alternative app store, Cydia.
- Perform a privacy audit: Follow Apple’s privacy checklist.
For Android Devices:
- Run Google Play Protect: Let Google’s Play Protect service run safety checks on downloaded apps.
- Check accessibility services: Examine apps with access to your camera, microphone, and folders.
- See if a device administrator has been installed: Monitor device administration access.
- Manually run checks on apps: Regularly review and uninstall unnecessary apps.
Protecting Yourself Against Malware
Defending against stalkerware involves vigilant habits and proactive measures:
- Watch for unusual behavior: Keep an eye on battery drain and data consumption.
- Change passwords and enable multi-factor authentication: Enhance device security.
- Avoid leaving devices unattended: Prevent unauthorized access.
- Periodically review installed apps: Remove unnecessary ones.
- Keep operating systems and apps updated: Patch known vulnerabilities.
- As a last resort, perform a factory reset: Ensure a fresh start with essential apps only.
FAQ: About Stalkerware Apps
- Can stalkerware be installed remotely?
- Yes, but it’s more challenging on smartphones and requires physical access.
- Are there legitimate stalkerware-like apps for surveillance?
- Currently, many are marketed as surveillance apps for children and pets.
- How can I tell if someone is monitoring my phone?
- Look for signs like strange behavior, rapid battery drain, and altered permissions.