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How to check if that mobile app is spying on you – Livemint

Summary

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Also read: How to protect your phone from malware and cybercriminals

“Spyware”, as the word suggests, is any software that installs itself on your phone or any other device and starts monitoring your online behaviour without your knowledge. Once in control, attackers can access the camera to take pictures, record video and audio, and track a user’s precise GPS location. Stalkerware is one of the easiest to access.

“The main diffe…….

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Also read: How to protect your phone from malware and cybercriminals

“Spyware”, as the word suggests, is any software that installs itself on your phone or any other device and starts monitoring your online behaviour without your knowledge. Once in control, attackers can access the camera to take pictures, record video and audio, and track a user’s precise GPS location. Stalkerware is one of the easiest to access.

“The main difference between stalkerware and other types of malware is that stalkerware usually is not used by some anonymous cybercriminals but rather by people that are known and often even very close to the victim,” says Ondrej David, malware analysis team leader at the multinational cybersecurity company Avast. “It is usually installed discreetly on smartphones by their ‘friends’, jealous spouses or ex-partners,” David explains on email.

In fact, Avast identified patterns between the use of stalkerware and the covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Last year, Avast Threat Labs, a global cybersecurity network feed of security researchers, discovered a 51% increase in spyware and stalkerware from March-June compared to January-February. It’s a trend that has shown a particularly steep upward curve in the second quarter of 2021, says David. In the case of India, Avast Threat Labs observed a 30% increase in spyware and stalkerware compared to the first quarter and a 47% year-on-year increase.

According to reports from other cybersecurity companies, stalkerware is hitting users around the world. The State Of Stalkerware In 2020 report, released by the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky in February, showed that 53,870 mobile phone users were affected globally by stalkerware in 2020. Most of these victims were in Russia (12,389), followed by Brazil (6,523), the US (4,745) and India (4,627).

Until a few years ago, only individuals with advanced computer skills could practise cyberstalking. This is no longer true: Stalkerware is advertised online and easy to find, download and use. “Access to such software is not very difficult and they are relatively affordable,” says Abhishek Karnik, director, anti-malware research and response, principal engineer, McAfee. In October, Google removed several ads for violating its policy on stalkerware surveillance apps that encouraged users to spy on their spouses or significant others.

Cybersecurity companies have been working on ways to tackle the threat. Kaspersky, for instance, released a free anti-stalkerware tool called TinyCheck in November last year to help non-profit organisations support victims of domestic violence and protect their privacy.

But what can individual users do to detect and remove such apps or software from their devices? “Preventing installation is a priority,” says David. “The first thing to do is to ensure that the phone is protected by a PIN or password…. The second is to install a trusted antivirus software, which will alert the user of any attempt to install stalkerware and could flag it as a …….

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