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Stalkerware is a particular type of app or software that sits on cell phones, mobile devices, laptops, and computers. It tracks everything from calls and location data to keystrokes and passwords before transmitting the data back to the person or persons responsible for the software.

This problem software is most commonly seen on mobile phones because people use it for everything from social media interactions to mobile banking, and because the phone is on the owner pretty much all the time, it offers the most information. There is very little that we don’t share with or use our phones for. And, if you don’t know the software is on your device, it can be difficult to spot unless you intentionally go looking. Below, we look at the best ways to search for, identify, and even remove any stalkerware that might be on your device.

However, not all stalkerware has malicious intent: it can have some viable and beneficial uses. Software, such as these free spy apps tested and compared for potential users, can be used by parents to keep their children safe and monitor online safety. They can also be used by employers to ensure company devices are not being misused. According to tech expert, Krishi Chowdhary, some of the apps can work in stealth mode, which makes them difficult to detect, especially if the app is optimized to minimize its impact on the phone.

While some stalkerware is used for positive purposes, like keeping tabs on children or employees, in other cases it’s installed maliciously. Let’s review how to check a device to see if stalkerware has been installed without the user’s knowledge.

Use Anti-Virus Software

Apple doesn’t allow antivirus and antimalware software on the app store, but Android does. So, if you have an Android phone, install a decent scanner and have it run its checks. You can also set it up to run every day. Schedule the scan for a time when you’re not using your phone. If the software detects any malware or viruses, check the details and follow the software’s instructions on what to do next.

Check Battery Life

A mobile phone’s battery life is adversely affected by having additional apps and software running in the background. If you find your phone battery is dying a lot sooner than it used to, this could be an indication that you have an unknown app running. Use your battery management screen to see what processes are using the most battery and check out the apps it lists. There could be another reason for battery drain, but it is worth investigating.

Look Out For Lag

Keylogging software monitors and records every key you press, even on your digital on-screen keyboard. You may start to notice a lag between the time you press a key and when the phone responds to that key press. It could be a sign that it’s time to update your apps, and there are other causes of a slow phone, but it could also be an indication that some software is tracking your actions.

Location Services Status

Many of us use location services on our phones. It is useful for using map and direction data, and it can also help find local services or even geotag photos on social media.   But, if you try turning location data off, and it automatically restarts, this is a possible indication that some software is being used to track your location.

Check Your Apps

Open your app list and have a look through all the apps on the list. It might take some time to check those you don’t recognize, but an internet search will give you details and enable you to determine whether an app should be installed or not.

Look For Unknown Configuration Profiles

On iOS, look for unknown configuration profiles, which can be found by going to Settings > General > VPN & Device Management. If any profiles are listed, click on them to see what they do and to determine whether you should delete them.

Monitor Accessibility Services

Accessibility services show which apps and software can access the different features of your phone. Stalkerware generally wants access to your camera, microphone, and various folders on your device. Check accessibility services and do an Internet search to check whether you should be allowing apps the kind of access they’re getting.

What To Do If You Find Stalkerware

If you do find stalkerware, you should take steps to protect yourself and your device, by doing the following.

Get Help

Removing the app or preventing access to your data could alert whoever installed the app on your phone. As such, stop using your mobile phone but, if you’re concerned about repercussions, reach out to the police or a domestic abuse hotline before you uninstall apps or take any further steps.

Remove Suspicious Apps

Once you’ve identified suspicious software, uninstall the app. Restart the phone once you’ve done and check to ensure that it hasn’t been reinstalled. Some malicious software will reinstall itself when you access the Internet or perform certain actions on your phone, so you will have to keep an eye out to ensure it doesn’t return in the future.

Change Passwords

Once you’ve uninstalled any malicious software, take the time to change all of your important passwords. Log off social media accounts and back in using your new passwords, and make sure you change banking and other financial account passwords urgently. Check your crypto gambling accounts and any games that also collect and use financial or personal data. You should also contact your bank and check for any unauthorized access or use.

How To Prevent Stalkerware From Being Installed

Once you’ve got stalkerware off your phone, you need to take positive steps to prevent it from being installed in the future.

Don’t Leave Your Device Unattended

Most stalkerware apps need to be installed directly on your phone, which requires physical access to the device. Avoid leaving your phone unattended and if you do lose or leave your phone, check it as soon as you recover it.

Routinely Check Your Apps List

Regularly check the apps installed on your phone. If you check every week or every month, you can sort apps by installation date to find those that have been recently installed. Alternatively, search by the date apps were last used. Stalkerware will usually be running in the background all the time.

Keep Everything Up To Date

Update apps and your operating system whenever new, stable releases are available. A lot of updates plug security holes, making it more difficult for malicious software to be installed remotely.

Don’t Jailbreak Your Device

Jailbreaking or rooting a device makes it easier to install unverified apps. Although it’s more common to jailbreak iPhones to allow the installation of more apps, doing so makes it easier for others to install stalkerware software.

Use Security Features

Apple offers various security features that you can use in place of third-party antivirus software. Android and Google also offer similar features, but none of them work if you don’t use them. You should also use two-factor authentication on apps and websites that offer it, giving yourself the best possible security for banking and other financial apps.

Conclusion

Stalkerware on mobile phones enables unauthorized third parties to view your online activity, calls, messages, and even your location. It can be used to log keystrokes and even to record audio or video footage using your mobile phone. Although there are legitimate uses for this type of app, if you find it on your phone and haven’t given permission for its use and don’t recognize it, you should take steps to remove it and ensure your safety.

By Chris Bates