stalkerware is spreading like wildfire and here's how you can protect yourself

While cybercriminals typically target financial data through malware, stalkerware is a more insidious threat that steals personal information to invade a victim’s privacy, often without their knowledge. New reports reveal the widespread use of stalkerware and the risks that this form of cybercrime poses to consumers.

Stalkerware, also known as spyware or surveillanceware, consists of commercially available software secretly installed on smartphones to monitor and track people’s activities without their consent. Perpetrators – including abusive spouses or ex-partners – use stalkerware to gain access to victims’ text messages, photos, call logs, location data, and more.

Also read: 14 Best Antivirus Software July 2023

Avast, one of the world’s largest cybersecurity software developers, detected a 239% increase in stalkerware infections from 2019 to 2022, with an average of 3,333 new victims each month.

Meanwhile, a report from Kaspersky indicated that 29,312 individuals were affected by stalkerware in 2022 alone. Experts estimate that the actual number of global victims could reach one million annually.

Stalkerware Activities are Growing in Multiple Countries

Stalkerware often masquerades as genuine apps like device finders or mobile security software. Once installed, they can start sending the victim’s data to the stalker in real time. Stalkers may also take remote control of the phone to activate its camera or microphone at will.

Victims are often unaware that their device has been compromised. They may only find out when they notice abnormalities, like poor performance, unexpected settings changes, or unauthorized activity on their bills. However, confronting stalkers can provoke retaliation, so experts warn that victims should not remove stalkerware without seeking professional assistance and even law enforcement involvement first.

Russia, Brazil, and India have the highest rates of stalkerware use, according to Kaspersky’s findings. However, stalkerware affects users in all countries. The report further states that the most common stalkerware app is Reptilicus, which affected 4,065 victims globally in 2022.

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One problem that is helping stalkerware spread rapidly is that these apps are not considered illegal per se unless they are installed on a device owned by a third party without their consent. However, experts believe that they should be prohibited.

Government intervention, amendments to privacy laws, and public education are needed to counter this growing threat. In the meantime, cybersecurity firms are working to detect and remove stalkerware through their anti-malware solutions.

Stalkerware not only violates victims’ privacy – it enables harassment, stalking, and other forms of abuse. Victim support services say technology-facilitated abuse increased during the pandemic.

Here’s What You Can Do to Protect Yourself from Stalkerware

how to protect yourself from stalkerwareStalkerware is a real and serious threat to your privacy. Those who harness control of a device via this type of application can hide app icons, track your geographical location, read your e-mails and private messages, make changes to your calendar, activate your camera and microphone, take a selfie or a screenshot, and install other applications without your authorization.

iOS-powered devices are reportedly less vulnerable, yet not infallible, to the stalkerware threat. The reason for this is that accessing the root directory of the phone is much more difficult than it is on an Android-powered device.


Experts recommend the following to avoid stalkerware infection:

  • Secure devices with passcodes, biometrics, and two-factor authentication.
  • Install a trusted antivirus app that can detect and remove stalkerware.
  • Be wary of granting access to lost device tracking services.

Also read: 11 Best Spy Apps for iPhone in July 2023

If you suspect stalkerware on your device:

  • Do not remove it yourself if the perpetrator has physical access – this could expose you.
  • Back up your data and reset your device to its factory settings.
  • Change all your passwords.
  • Install antivirus software to scan and remove any leftover stalkerware.
  • Contact helplines and support services for victims of abuse.