What is stalker software and what role does it play in toxic relationships?
In the spring, our analysts recorded a dramatic increase in the use of phone spyware around the world. This increase coincided with a period of quarantine measures.
Stalkerware is unethical software that allows people to track another person’s location, access their personal photos and videos, or even intercept emails, text messages and messenger messages, as well as listen to phone calls and make covert recordings of conversations over the Internet.
In July of this year, Google took steps to reduce the popularity of stalker software and banned “the promotion of products or services that sell or aim to track or monitor another person or their actions without permission.” However, critics noted that virtually identical apps are still allowed if advertised as private investigator tools or parental control programs.
The danger of spyware in toxic relationships
There is a direct correlation between toxic relationships and the presence of stalker software in such relationships.
“If you’re in a violent relationship, or you fear it will become one, spyware increases your risks. Information about a harmless encounter with a friend or relative in a coffee shop obtained through such apps can cause abuse. If you have already encountered this, you need urgent help and support. Don’t delay and seek help from women’s support centers,” said Jaya Balu, Director of IT Security at Avast.
It’s important that everyone has access to information on how to remove stalker software from their device. It’s also important to understand the potential risks this can entail.
“If stalker software is already installed, a partner may find out about its removal. Therefore, preventing the installation of such software is of paramount importance. The first thing to do is to make sure you have a PIN or password on your phone. This will help prevent you from installing programs without your knowledge. You should also install up-to-date anti-virus software that will alert you to spyware attempts and help you remove it. Both of these actions are common, reasonable measures you should take to keep your device and personal data safe. If your partner strongly objects to such actions, it once again indicates that you need help to protect yourself,” says Jaya Balu.
Signs of stalker software on your phone
You’ve noticed that your device’s performance has deteriorated drastically and suddenly. You may have noticed slowdowns or frequent crashes and freezes.
Your settings have changed without your consent. If you suddenly have a new home page in your browser, new icons on your desktop, a default search service changed, or other changes you didn’t make, stalker software may be the cause.
You get strange messages. Sudden pop-ups or error messages about programs that have always worked well can indicate the presence of spyware.
How to prevent spyware installation
- Protect your phone from unauthorized physical access. Make sure your phone or other device is set up with two-factor authentication, such as a PIN and a second form of identity verification (via email or fingerprint).
- Install a reliable antivirus on your cell phone. A good mobile antivirus will detect the stalker software as a PUP – a potentially unwanted program – and give you the option to remove it.
How to remove spyware from your phone manually
- Restart your phone in safe mode. Press and hold the power button on your phone to display the “Power Off” and “Restart” commands. A long press on the Power Off item displays Reboot in Safe Mode. Tap the OK button.
- Uninstall any suspicious apps. After restarting in Safe Mode, open Settings and tap the Apps or Apps and Notifications item. Browse through the apps and look for those you don’t know.
- Uninstall any malicious apps. Click “Uninstall” to remove the app from your device. If you’re not sure, look up the name of the app and see if others have had problems with it.
If you would like to share your story with us and thereby help make such cybercrimes more visible, you can email me. All personal information will be treated anonymously.