Your smartphone, your PC, your laptop – most of the devices we use are to some degree vulnerable to so-called stalkerware, software installed without your knowledge and aimed at obtaining sensitive data, like personal photos or login details.
In a nutshell, stalkerware “can result in the theft of data, monitoring of emails, SMS and MMS messages sent and received and even intercept your phone calls for the purposes of eavesdropping”, the Coalition against Stalkerware says.
The platform, a joint initiatve by aid organisations and IT security companies, aims to combat stalking, harassment and domestic violence by addressing the issue of stalkerware.
“Stalkerware services imply that their customers personally know victims, because these commercial spyware apps are manually installed. Users have to download the app, install it and enter credentials that are received after purchasing,” the Coalition explains further.
Anyone who loses their smartphone for a short period of time or has lent it to someone else for a longer time should therefore check it for changed or unknown settings, the initiative recommends.
On Android devices, for example, the setting “Unknown Sources” in the security menu is deactivated by default. If it’s suddenly activated, however, it could have been manipulated.
An unexpected discharge of the battery can also be a sign of stalkerware. Other indications are unknown apps or processes and webcam permissions that have not been granted by the device owner.
Even active sessions for which you have not logged in can indicate installed stalkerware.
Stalkerware is used for hidden digital surveillance, among other things. Removing it is not easy, but not impossible either. The Coalition against Stalkerware offers advise on how to do so on its website.
However, if you delete it, the respective offender is also warned. Victims of cyberstalking should therefore prepare a security plan and get expert help, for example from organisations that support victims of domestic violence. – dpa