As you probably know, there are different types of malicious software on the Internet. Some, like computer viruses and computer worms, corrupt and crash computers and exist to spread grief. Others, like adware and ransomware, are designed to help their authors earn money. But there are also some particularly nefarious types of malware, like spyware, keyloggers, and stalkerware, that threat actors use to spy on others.

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What is stalkerware?

Stalkerware is an especially dangerous type of spyware that can infect your computer, mobile phone, or even tablet and can help someone with malicious intent cyberstalk you or your family. Here are some features of stalkerware.

  • Can share a log of calls and texts sent and received from a target’s phone.
  • May document’s a victim’s web activity.  
  • Could record audio, video, and even take screenshots using your device’s camera or microphone. 
  • Can record keystrokes and enable someone to spy on your conversations or read your usernames and passwords
  • Some stalkerware can determine your GPS location and send your exact coordinates to its author.
  • It usually disguises itself as another security application like antivirus tools. 

Who uses stalkerware? 

Cybersecurity experts created the term stalkerware after husbands, jealous lovers, and ex-partners started using a specialized type of spyware to stalk love interests, intimate partners, and spouses. Unfortunately, some abusers also use stalkerware to spy on children. State-sponsored actors may also use stalkerware to track and suppress journalists and activists.

What are the consequences of stalkerware? 

Stalkerware can lead to partner surveillance, harassment, domestic violence, gender-based abuse, and even death. Although companies like Google and Apple are acting against the malware, the malicious software is widely available. Often, stalkerware brands market themselves as legal security tools, employer surveillance tools, or parent monitoring tools to escape scrutiny from critics. 

What are the symptoms of stalkerware? 

There are several symptoms of stalkerware. While some are pretty obvious, others can be more subtle. Take remediation steps if you notice some of the following:

  • Your private pictures, videos, emails, or documents are published online.
  • Someone has doxed you.
  • A suspicious person in your life is privy to certain secrets.
  • You feel like someone is tracking you after you lent or misplaced your laptop or device.
  • Your laptop or mobile device’s battery is draining faster.
  • There’s unexplained network activity.
  • Mobile data usage is significantly higher without cause. 
  • Your computer or device is slowing down, crashing, or displaying popups.
  • Your Internet is slower. 
  • Mysterious new applications are on your system. 
  • Your mobile device is overheating.
  • The camera, microphone, GPS, or Bluetooth on your machine activate without your consent, especially at odd hours.

How do I stop stalkerware? 

Stopping stalkerware is about education and defense software. It would help if you had malware protection tools to secure your computer from all types of malware like viruses, keyloggers, ransomware, and stalkerware. You should also activate your firewall, avoid using unsecured public WiFi, and update your software regularly to fix security issues. 

You and your family should also avoid unreliable websites, emails, and downloads. Don’t accept software or hardware from untrustworthy people as such gifts can carry infections or built-in keyloggers. Finally, avoid lending your devices to others.