Stalker apps on Android is not a new thing. These apps let individuals spy on other users’ messages, call information, and GPS locations – in complete stealth. According to Kaspersky, in their new report “The State of Stalkerware in 2019” these apps have increased sharply by 373% in the first eight months of 2019 alone compared to a similar time last year.
Spyware should not be confused with parental control apps, however. The latter is primarily used to restrict access to risky and inappropriate content. So, the parents have control and will receive notifications of the user requests from the device. But stalkerware apps are meant to provide the abuser with surveillance to spy on a victim – without their consent.
The common use case for stalker apps has evolved to spying on current or former partners and even strangers.
“Those with bad intentions may use it to monitor employee emails, track children’s movements and even spy on what a partner is up to. Such uses may lead to harassment, surveillance without consent, stalking and even domestic violence,” said the company in a blog post.
The way these apps can be installed on a victim’s device varies. Most cases involve manual installation on the targeted victim’s smartphone or tablet. Other cases could involve remote administration via a spear-phishing email with malicious attachments or links.
Most of the apps in question masqueraded as parental control apps after installation or as anti-theft apps that operate in the background to avoid detection. Many spyware apps are not available on official app stores – like Google Play, however. But in a rare case scenario, Avast reported eight apps with a similar intent in July available on Google Playstore, but they were all pulled down.
Starting January, Kaspersky busted more than 518,223 cases where presence if stalkerware was detected or detected an attempt to install it with no user consent. This represents a 373% increase in the same period in 2018.
In the eight months, 37,532 users encountered stalkerware at least once – a 35% increase from the same period in 2018.
Where Stalkerware apps are rooted
The report reveals that Russia, India, Brazil, and the US are the most prominent regions for Android stalkerware globally. While Europe’s most prominent region include Germany, Italy, and the UK.
Can end-to-end encryption protect you?
Like WhatsApp, for example, the platform has end-to-end encryption. But that does mean you are shielded from these stalker apps? No. E2EE is of no use when the endpoint itself is compromised with surveillance software.
Shielding yourself from Stalkware
The first step to protecting yourself from such apps by doing the following;
- Run a malware scan
- Secure your device with stronger passwords
- Factory reset your device if all else fails