53,870 mobile users were survivors of stalkerware in 2020. Stalkerware is a form of monitoring software which enables a remote user to track activities on another user's device, such as location data, call logs and messages. It is most often used to monitor a spouse or partner without their permission.
The term stalkerware, also known as spyware, refers to a type of app designed to be hidden from the survivor. Survivors are often unaware when this software has been installed on their device.
So what is Stalkerware exactly?
Stalkerware apps can allow someone to track virtually anything you do on your device: following your location, listening to phone calls, viewing text messages and emails, etc. These apps must be manually installed onto a device, so they are most often used by someone close to the survivor, such as a partner, ex-partner, spouse, boss or parent. Many stalkerware apps will market themselves as “parental-monitoring” tools, for parents to track their underaged children.
It’s more common than you think
According to a study, 85% of domestic violence shelters surveyed said they're working directly with survivors whose abusers tracked them using GPS. 75% said they're working with survivors whose abusers eavesdropped on their conversation remotely — using hidden mobile apps.
How to prevent your phone from being stalked?
The following tips may help minimize the risk of stalkerware being downloaded to your device and help you stay cyber secure overall:
#1: Don’t leave your device unattended
Whether you are at home or out in public, ensure your devices are with you at all times.
#2: Lock your device
Make sure you lock your device with the use of a passcode or extra security features (like facial recognition).
#3: Only download apps from verified developers and official app stores
Before downloading any app from the App Store, Google Play or any other app service, check the reviews and ratings of the app, and look it up online to ensure the developer is credible.
#4: Create strong passphrases only you would know
A strong passphrase is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember, including special characters and numbers. On many sites, you can even use spaces. Be mindful not to use birth dates, repeating digits, a year of birth, your social security number, phone numbers or anything the abuser can easily guess.
#5: Review your download apps
Do a periodic review of the apps downloaded onto your phone. Check the settings of used apps to make sure the privacy and security settings are configured to protect you and your information. Delete any apps you no longer use or do not recognize. Don't forget to check your phone settings for a list of all the apps downloaded to the phone, not just the ones that appear on your home screen.
#6: Use antivirus software
Cybersecurity antivirus software will scan your device for stalkerware and any other malicious apps, and warn you if they find known stalkerware apps. Learn more about the different antivirus softwares available.