Stalkerware is surveillance software that captures not only your location, but also every action you take on your mobile device. It can be reviewed in live time or recorded for later viewing. Sometimes called spyware, it literally hides on your phone.
Stalkerware is very easy and inexpensive to buy and install. Many of those available for purchase market themselves as parental tools, allowing Mom and Dad to monitor what Junior is up to. Nearly 54,000 mobile users were infected by stalkerware in 2020 alone. But you have options if you think you're a victim.
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How Stalkerware Works
This is spyware, so your stalker can monitor everything you do on your phone after it's been infected. They'll have your credit card number and PIN if you use your mobile device to buy something online. They'll have your password if you tap it in to check on your bank balance. They can then use this information to access your accounts. Your financial life and your private life are stripped bare.
Stalkerware can also listen to your phone conversations, so opting to speak rather than tap in this information won't protect you. It can see what you've searched for online, any pictures you've taken and text messages you've received.
These apps must be manually installed on your device so the perpetrator has to have access to your device. But you might install it yourself by downloading another app from an iffy website. You might click on a link contained in an email or text and inadvertently install the malware.
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Clues That You’re Being Stalked
Stalkerware may be hidden on your mobile device, running in the background in "stealth mode," but even ghosts rattle their chains now and again so you might experience some signs that you're a victim.
You may notice that your battery is depleting much more quickly than your own use warrants, or see a marked increase in your data usage that your own use doesn't justify. Your phone might also turn on or off without any prompting from you. It might begin to experience hiccups and glitching, becoming slow and logy to use.
Scroll through your phone apps if you're experiencing any of these issues. Look for any you don't recognize or recall installing. Don't just scan the logos or tags, because many are designed to look familiar and to camouflage themselves as other, well-known apps.
Your best option might be to hand your device over to an expert who can check it and tell you for sure if stalkerware has been installed on your Apple iPhone or Android device. This option also provides a valuable tool for preserving evidence if you ever determine who did this to you and you want to press charges or initiate a lawsuit.
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If You’re Infected
You can perform a factory reset if you're sufficiently tech-savvy, or you can simply remove any suspicious apps you've found. Now change all your passwords and login information so the ones that have been hacked will no longer authorize entry into your accounts. Alert your bank, lenders and all other financial accounts that you've been stalked so they can keep an eye out for unauthorized activity.
How to Protect Yourself
Of course, your best recourse is not to let that malware find a home on your mobile device in the first place. Always investigate and look into the source of any app you're thinking of downloading, and never click on links in emails or text messages from someone you don't know. You might install anti-stalker and antivirus protection on your phone as well.
Lock your device if you have reason to leave it unattended. There's always the chance that the stalkerware didn't end up on your phone because of anything you did, but rather because someone else installed it.