It probably doesn’t come as a surprise but there's a new kind of “Ware” on the tech scene and it’s not something you’re going to want to find on any of your devices. Stalkerware, as it has recently been labeled, is a security and privacy threat that allows you to be spied on in a variety of malicious, intrusive ways. If you’d like to know a little more about this emerging threat continue reading.
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The name Stalkerware is pretty self-explanatory, in nutshell, software is secretly installed on a victim's phone, tablet or computer. This software allows the installer to gather video, audio, messages and other types of information or watch in real time should they choose to. It’s basically software that allows you be to spied upon in the most personal and intimate way. The good news is that there are ways you can detect and remove Stalkerware from your devices. Below are the steps you need to follow if you think you may have fallen victim Stalkerware.
How Do I Know if Stalkerware is Installed on My Device?
Stalkerware isn’t as easy to install as viruses or Malware and generally requires someone to have physical access to your device. This doesn’t make it impossible though, dodgy phone or computer repair companies, ex-lovers, jealous partners, backstabbing friends and plenty of other parties have the potential to install some sort of Stalkerware on your device. A specific piece of software called FlexiSpy is one of the main and most well-known offenders on the Stalkerware scene and can be obtained in a variety of different ways. You can find more information on FlexiSpy's origin here.
Note: Just because we mentioned that Stalkerware is most likely to be installed by someone who has physical access to your device, it doesn’t mean you can't be infected by stalkerware from other traditional locations, such as email attachments and downloaded files. Stay vigilant and make sure you are only opening files you are sure are clean. And keep your passwords fresh for all your accounts.
One of the easiest ways to spot Stalkerware on your device, whether it is your phone, laptop or tablet, is to look for any new apps or programs that have been installed since you had it repaired or borrowed it to someone. This can be done easily on your Android or iOS device by checking your installed apps list.
If you see anything you’re not sure about, Google it to find out more. If Google says it might be malicious, remove it as soon as possible. If you are concerned about your computer and are using Windows or MacOS you can open the Task Manager or Activity Monitor and search for any programs running in the background that shouldn’t be. Again if you are unsure you can Google any entries you are worried about and remove them. You should also be very cautious about what apps you install if you have Jailbroken your iPhone.
Note: Make sure that the secret question answers you have set on certain websites and apps aren’t easily guessed by people who may know you. This isn’t stalkerware related but can be used to gain access to sensitive/personal information.
If you are worried about your Google or Facebook account being accessed, you can use their active sessions tools, which allow you to force sign out of any devices you are logged into. For Google, accounts go to the account page and select Device Activity & Notifications. Here you can view the devices your account has been accessed from, you also have the option to force a sign-out. Remember if anything is suspicious, change your account details, especially your password.
You can do the exact same thing if you think your Facebook account is being accessed by someone else, from another device. Just go to Settings > Security > Where you’re logged in. Here you will be able to view all the places and devices you have logged in from and end/stop access from any device on the list. Simply click end all activity or end activity for individual devices.
How to Remove Stalkerware.
If you think you have been affected by FlexiSpy there is an online tool available at Security Without Borders that you can use to help remove it. They also offer some handy advice you should read before removing the FlexiSpy Stalkerware from your device.
If you want to do a general check to make sure your device is free from Stalkerware and other Ware, you can do a standard antivirus or malware scan, this should remove the threats. If you suspect your webcam or recording device is being watched or monitored, it is best to unplug it when not in use. If it is hardwired into your phone or computer cover it with some tape or a sticker. You can also check the Windows settings to see which apps and programs have access to it. If you notice a program or app that has access and you no longer want it to, you can Disable it. Go to Settings > Privacy and set the toggle next to the app or program to Off.
If at any stage you are still worried about your phone or computer being spied on, you can completely restore it to factory defaults. This will wipe everything from your device including any Stalkerware.