Stalkerware isn’t just a tool for creeps on fictional TV shows– anyone can use this invasive, dangerous, and illegal software to stalkand harass you, including a jealous spouse, an ex-lover, or an obsessed lurker.

The malicious software has resulted in domestic violence and other tragic situations for years. In 2014, an abuser used stalkerware to track a woman’s activity and spy on her through her microphone. Later, he abused her for hours.

Law enforcement officials areon the heelsof stalkerware developers.Take Loverspy,for example, a notorious stalkerware that enables abusers to access your emails, everything you read, and everything you record with your camera or microphone. In 2013, Loverspy’s creator was placed on the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted list and soon arrested in El Salvador. Unfortunately, fear of law enforcement hasn’t stopped developers and criminals from creating and using stalkerware.

Knowledge Is Your Ally

To hit back against abusers who use stalkerware, you must learn more about it. The term stalkerware was coined when people started designing spyware to spy on romantic interests. Naturally, this leads to the question: what is spyware – and how does it work? 

Spyware is a sneaky type of malware that shares your confidential information with others. It infects your computer through malicious websites, free software, dodgy links, and in rarer cases, innocuous-looking hardware. 

The malware is usually used by hackers and thieves to collect your financial information, emails, usernames and passwords, and Internet activity for monetary gain. Spies, state-sponsored elements, and industrial espionage agents also employ spyware to attain more sophisticated goals. Spyware serves legitimate purposes, too– it’s used by many companies to enforce regulatory compliance and defend against corporate theft. 

How Do I Protect Myself from Stalkerware?

Like most spyware, stalkerware is challenging to detect because it barely leaves a digital footprint and doesn’t drain your system’s resources – a computer or phone infected with stalkerware rarely slows down or crashes. 

To protect yourself from stalkerware, avoid suspicious emails, texts, and questionable links. Stalkers usually use phishing scams to trick their victims, which often come in the shape of fraudulent messages. For example, Loverspy hit unsuspecting users through a boobytrapped electronic greeting card.

Install a reputable cybersecurity program to protect yourself from sophisticated spyware. The right cybersecurity program will offer real-time protection and warn you against phishing expeditions.Likewise, install and enable a firewall to protect your network. 

Some abusers may use hardware-based stalkerware. For example, they can use a USB keylogger to record all your keystrokes on your laptop or an infected SIM card to monitor your mobile phone activity. The best way to catch this type of stalkerware is to stay vigilant. Be wary of gifts from a potential abuser to you, your friends, or your family, and don’t let them handle any of your electronic devices. 

Most importantly, trust your instincts. If your abuser is privy to your confidential information, then create new accounts and set sophisticated passwords. If this doesn’t help, then your devices could be infected with stalkerware. Consult a digital forensics investigatorfor advice and turn to law enforcement to stay safe.In addition, visit the Coalition Against Stalkerware for professional guidance from security experts.