A recent report has revealed that nearly 4,627 mobile users in India have been found to be the victims of stalkerware which is a secret software-based surveillance that is used in tracking the whereabouts and mobile activity of people.
Since a lot of people have been forced to stay indoors due to COVID-19 protocols, the number could have been higher if the lockdown was not in place in many parts of the country. Also Read - 5 tips to protect your phone from dangerous spyware like Pegasus
What are stalkerware apps?
Stalkerware is another kind of spyware where apps are disguised under a fake app name with involuntary access to messages, call logs, location and other personal activity on the mobile phone.
An app called “Wi-Fi’ that accesses geolocation on the mobile is another suspicious candidate as per cybersecurity firm Kaspersky. Also Read - Pegasus spyware: This toolkit lets you check if your mobile phone is affected
“We see the number of users affected by stalkerware has remained high and we detect new samples every day. It’s important to remember that there is somebody’s real-life story behind all these numbers, and sometimes there is a silent call for help,” said Victor Chebyshev, Research Development Team Lead, Kaspersky. Also Read - Pegasus spyware: Can it affect your mobile phone, should you be worried?
Stalkerware is not a new anomaly and has been in the spyware ecosystem for many years and has a global presence.
In 2020, a total of 53,870 mobile users were affected globally by stalkerware. The year before, Kaspersky discovered 67,500 affected mobile users.
How to know whether your phone has stalkerware?
Smartphone users have the option to check whether their devices have stalkerware installed on them.
You need to delete apps that are no longer being used. If there are apps on your phone that have not been used in a month or more, it is probably safe to assume it is no longer needed; and if this changes in the future, it can always be reinstalled. Therefore it is always advisable to remove these apps as they may be spyware.
Also, check “unknown sources” settings on Android devices. If “unknown sources” are enabled on your device, it might be a sign that unwanted software was installed from a third-party source.
Users need to be vigilant when trying to remove stalkerware from their mobile devices as the abuser may notice.
“It is very important to consider that the abuser may be a potential safety risk. In some cases, the person may escalate his abusive behaviour in response”, the company suggested.
In November last year, the company released a free anti-stalkerware tool called TinyCheck in order to help non-profit organisations support victims of domestic violence and protect their privacy.
–with inputs from IANS.