For many of us, our phone is the lifeline connecting us with family, friends, school and work at the touch of a screen. It is also home to sensitive information such as bank accounts, passwords and locations. There are benefits to having this information at our fingertips; but with great power, comes great responsibility. Because this one powerful device holds so much sensitive information, cybercriminals use stalkerware to access your device, without your knowledge, and acquire your information.
What is stalkerware?
Stalkerware is a monitoring spyware that allows cybercriminals to track and access your phone, undetected, once it has been installed on your device. Stalkerware is usually hidden in plain sight through an application download and even in your settings, making it difficult for users to notice it is there. According to the National Cybersecurity Alliance, 53,870 mobile users were victims of stalkerware just in 2020.
What can be accessed on my phone with stalkerware?
Cybercriminals can access multiple functions on your phone and use them to complete the actions below:
- Track you through your GPS location
- Read your private messages (e.g., text messages and emails)
- See and hear through your camera and microphone (THINK: a never-ending live stream)
- Monitor your internet activity
How can I ensure I am safe from stalkerware?
Apple and Android devices have various preventive measures to ensure their users do not fall victim to spyware. Still, no technology is 100% and some compromised applications may slip through the cracks. Look below for ways you can ensure you are safe from stalkerware.
iPhone users benefit from Apple’s lockdown approach to applications and app security. Apple’s software does not allow applications to incorporate themselves deep into the device’s software, making it virtually impossible to install stalkerware.
Google removes applications in the Google Play Store that show any evidence of stalkerware.
Ways to detect that your phone may have stalkerware installed:
- Receiving notifications from software you do not recognize
- Noticing unfamiliar applications found in your listed apps
- Your phone heating up or losing battery while not in use
- Noticing changes in your security settings (most software is hidden within security sections of your settings)
How can I protect my phone?
Update, update, update. Keeping your applications and mobile devices up to date provides protection to your device. Most updates include security patches, which is a repair to a security weakness found in software devices.
Make updates convenient by using the below tips to ensure your device remains protected:
- Change the settings on your device to “Auto Update”
- Start your updates to you phone before you go to bed so you could wake up ready to go