Ever since governments began enforcing lockdowns as a way to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, experts have been warning about the dangers of malware. Hackers have been targeting home computers as a way to break into company networks and steal data or embezzle money.

However, there is another category of malware that is of concern – stalkerware. Stalkerware is usually installed on a victim’s smartphone and used to track their activities. This includes where they go, the webpages they look at and who they communicate with. Advanced variants can read the contents of text messages and emails and even listen in on phone calls.

Someone is watching

This form of malware provides everything needed to follow and spy on an individual – hence the name ‘stalkerware’. Stalkerware is incredibly invasive and revealing – and victims usually have no idea that their phone is infected or that they are being spied on.

Like other forms of malware, stalkerware can be accessed remotely by the stalker to steal information that has been collected. With the ability to control an infected phone they can spy on their victim in real time.

Who is behind stalkerware?

Cyberstalkers are typically men – but that’s where the similarities end. They can be ex-partners, colleagues, friends – or complete strangers.

How do I get infected with stalkerware?

Most stalkerware infections start by tricking the victim into downloading and installing a new app. Typically the victim will receive an email or text message apparently from someone they know (or their employer) advising that they must install a specific app urgently.

Once installed, the infected app opens a backdoor through your phone’s security so the stalker can connect whenever they want.

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A very serious issue

The problem is becoming more common too. Installations of spyware and stalking apps in the UK have increased by 83% since March this year. This is far higher than the rest of the world which has also seen an average increase of 51%.

Stalkerware can place women and men in significant danger. The ability to track every detail of a victim’s life means that the stalker knows exactly where they are at any moment in time – which could have fatal consequences.

How do I detect and remove stalkerware?

Stalkerware is designed to be stealthy so that the victim never realises their smartphone has been infected. Many of the usual tell-tale signs of mobile malware (unwanted pop-ups, slow performance, over-heating) are not present with stalkerware.

Often the only way these infections are discovered is during a routine malware scan. Which is why installing and using mobile anti-malware on your phone is so important. With Panda’s Free Antivirus for Android, stalkerware (and other forms of malware) can be detected and removed, immediately restoring your privacy and personal protection.

If you discover stalkerware installed on your device, you must report the issue to the police. And if you find yourself at threat or in danger from a stalker, call the emergency services for immediate assistance.