Stalkerware is a term used to refer to software applications that are specifically designed to track individuals while hiding from view. Numerous stalkerware applications market themselves as parental/family monitoring tools, but they can be and often are used to stalk and spy on a person. These apps are typically installed without the victim’s consent and knowledge. It appears that over the past 2 years stalkerware is growing in popularity, leaving traditional malware attacks less prolific than previously. Cybersecurity professionals have revealed that cyberattackers have shifted tactics and targets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a marked increase was in stalkerware throughout last year. the use of tracking applications increased by 565% between January and December last year, while spyware detections rose by 1,055% across the same period.
Despite these being legal, stalkerware apps are mostly misused and utilised for illegal surveillance, as a result Stalkerware/Spyware is prohibited by most major app stores (including Apple’s and Google’s) and The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) banned frequent stalkerware apps developed a specific company. Installations of spyware and stalking apps in the UK have increased by 83% since early March last year, which was a staggering increase in comparison to the rest of the world that saw a 51% increase. Stalkerware can be extremely dangerous.
This form of malware is often separated from essentially all types of malware as almost all phone spyware requires that the person has physical access to the device to install, it can be installed by cybercriminals, perhaps via phishing, or by someone with direct access to your devices. Once installed, it runs in stealth mode without any notification or identifying activity and is difficult to detect or remove. The most common users of stalkerware are domestic violence abusers, who install these programs onto their partner’s computer or mobile device without their knowledge, this tactic has also been adopted by many cyber criminals onto unsuspecting individuals and organisations.
Phone spyware can be one of the most invasive and intrusive ways this software is used, and dangerous because it can Spyware can allow someone to turn on the webcam or microphone of the targeted device, take screenshots, see activity on third-party apps and intercept, forward, or record phone calls and view locations. Android devices are more susceptible to spyware, iOs devices must be jailbroken (this is when removes the protections that the operating system and phone manufacturer put on the phone have been removed).
Stalkerware apps can be sold in app stores for legitimate uses, such as employer tracking, anti-theft, parental control, or family tracking, the properties of the software allow the behaviour of the app to go unnoticed. Notably, in the last few years, various companies responsible for issuing spyware/stalkeware have been actively targeted by anonymous hacking groups in attempts to disrupt the unethical business practices of those profiting from the surveillance of non-consenting parties.