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Stalkerware is a type of applications that abusers use to monitor and track their victims. These apps are typically installed without the victim’s consent and knowledge. The apps are designed to trick the victims into thinking that nothing is off. This way abusers can keep on tracking their victims unnoticed.

What can stalkerware apps do

Stalkerware apps have many functions, but they are not all the same. Typical things these apps are used for are:

  • Tracking the victim’s location in real-time
  • Getting access to the victim’s call logs
  • Reading the victim’s messages
  • Taking screenshots and sending them to the abuser
  • Using the camera of the victim’s device to watch them or their surroundings
  • Listening to the victim through their device’s microphone

Who uses these apps – and why?

Stalkerware apps are used by different types of abusers. This could be the victim’s partner, their parent or a family member, a friend, or a colleague. Potential motivation to use these apps can be for example jealousy, overprotectiveness, control, abuse, and as the name suggests, stalking. The apps are installed by people with physical access to the victim’s device. This also separates these apps from other malware, such as infostealers. Read more about infostealer malware >>

Stalkerware apps can be sold in app stores for legitimate uses, such as employer tracking, anti-theft, parental control, or family tracking. Unfortunately, these purposes can make the victim feel like nothing is off. They don’t usually have a clue that they are being monitored.

How to check if your phone has stalkerware in it

Check your device admin applications list

You can find this setting from the security settings on Android phones. Search for any apps that you don’t recognize. If you find any, you should investigate further what they are.

Check app permissions

Review what permissions you have granted to apps from phone settings. Stalkerware apps typically have broad app permissions. While having many permissions doesn’t make an app stalkerware, you can maybe find out that unknown apps have permissions to use your camera, call logs or something else that is suspicious. F-Secure SAFE makes it really easy for you to review app permissions.

Use online resources

If you suspect that your phone has stalkerware, visit www.stopstalkerware.org. It’s a website with lots of resources on how to identify stalkerware and what to do next.

Watch our cyber security expert’s explanation about stalkerware from the video below!

Luciano Hernández

27.01.21 2 min. read

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F-Secure SAFE makes it easy to check app permissions - and maybe discover stalkerware apps

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