How to identify and protect yourself from stalkerware

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jordan Mills
  • 436th Communications Squadron

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so we wanted to take the opportunity to highlight a threat that has become alarmingly prevalent. The U.S. has the fourth highest proportion of individuals potentially affected by stalkerware worldwide. Despite this, 57% of adults in the U.S. are not aware of this form of online creeping.

Stalkerware is monitoring software that, as the name suggests, keeps constant track of your activities on your devices and online. It is primarily used by adversaries to record the information and activities of their targets. For example, stalkerware often includes a type of key-logging software, which records all the keystrokes on your device. This can be used to gain easy access to the target’s email or worse, their bank account information.

Once installed on a device, stalkerware can be difficult to detect due to its ability to mask its activity. If left on a system for too long, stalkerware can give the attacker access to the online identities of their targets, including:

  • Photos, videos, emails and text messages
  • Apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook
  • Location tracking and webcam access
  • Personal phone calls and voicemails

This is why it’s important to go over a couple of things to reduce the likelihood of downloading stalkerware.

One way is using only trustworthy websites and applications when trying to download or access information or software. An additional measure that can be applied is to look up reviews of anything you attempt to download, even if it’s from a legitimate resource. Just because something can be downloaded or accessed from a trusted source does not always guarantee that it is safe.  

Another way to reduce your likelihood of suffering a stalkerware attack is to install antivirus software that runs scans regularly. This can detect and eliminate stalkerware software on the system before it gets a chance to record any important information.

Also, be cautious with who has access to your devices and keep your passwords and pin codes private. Using two-factor authentication, such as a pin code and another form of identity, also provides added protection.  Finally, check your devices regularly for suspicious apps and remove any that you don’t recognize. With the knowledge of stalkerware and how to avoid it, you can have a safer online experience.