Kaspersky researchers have reported a 35 per cent rise in the number of people who have encountered the use of so-called ‘stalkerware’ or ‘spouseware’ software in the first 8 months of this year.
What is Stalkerware?
Stalkerware (or ‘spouseware’) is surveillance software that can be purchased online and loaded onto a person’s mobile device. From there, the software can record all of a person’s activity on that device, thereby allowing another person to read their messages, see screen activity, track the person through GPS location, access their social media, and even spy on the mobile user through the cameras on their device.
Covert, Without Knowledge or Consent
The difference between parental control apps and stalkerware is that stalkerware programs are promoted as software for spying on partners and they run covertly in the background without a person’s knowledge or consent.
Unlike legitimate parental control apps, such programs run hidden in the background, without a victim’s knowledge or consent. They are often promoted as software for spying on people’s partners.
Most Stalkerware needs to be installed manually on a victim’s phone which means that the person who intends to carry out the surveillance e.g. a partner, needs physical access to the mobile device.
Figures from Kaspersky show that there are now 380 variants of stalkerware ‘in the wild’ this year, which is 31% more than last year.
Most In Russia
Kaspersky’s figures show that this kind of surveillance software is most popular in Russia, with the UK in eighth place in Kaspersky’s study.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Unlike parental control apps which serve a practical purpose to help parents to protect their children from the many risks associated with Internet and mobile phone use, stalkerware appears to be more linked to abuse because of how it has been added to a device without a user’s consent to covertly and completely invade their privacy. This kind of software could also be used for industrial espionage by a determined person who has access to a colleague’s mobile phone.
If you’d like to avoid being tracked by stalkerware or similar software, Kaspersky advises that you block the installation of programs from unknown sources in your smartphone’s settings, never disclose the passwords/passcode for your mobile device, and never store unfamiliar files or apps on your device. Also, those leaving a relationship may wish to change the security settings on their mobile device.
Kaspersky also suggests that you should check the list of applications on your device to find out if suspicious programs have been installed without your consent.
If, for example, you find out that someone e.g. a partner/ex-partner has installed surveillance software on your devices, and/or does appear to be stalking you, the advice is, of course, to contact the police and any other relevant organisation.