If you can’t shake off the feeling that someone might be looking over your shoulder, you might be right. Paranoia is one thing, but when it comes to devices’ security, you can never be too careful. More often than not, people do have a reason to spy on you.
Whether it be your boss or your jealous partner, it’s on you to take the steps necessary to ensure this isn’t the case and protect your devices against unwanted software. Stalkerware is one of its most insidious variants and thus deserves to take today’s spotlight.
What Is Stalkerware?
Stalkerware is the kind of third-party software that records data that enters your device and sends it to another person. This is done behind the affected individual’s back, which is a serious invasion of one’s privacy. For example, by installing it on someone’s device, the stalker can track every move, listen in on conversations, and more.
But what makes stalkerware different compared to spyware? While the latter often sneaks into your device by pretending to be a legitimate program, the former is directly advertised and marketed to those who would like to monitor their victims.
After that, it’s on the stalker to find a way on how to sneak it into your phone. While it’s technically referred to as stalkerware, stalkers are not the only ones who are using it. It could also be an overprotective parent who wishes to monitor their kids.
To help determine whether you’re infected or not, be on the lookout for the following signs.
Spikes in data usage
Let’s say you’re not streaming, sending large files over email, or using up your carrier’s data. If you’ve noticed huge spikes in data usage and can’t quite put your finger on it, stalkerware is one possible reason. It could be that your phone is sending your files or large chunks of data to the stalker.
Of course, don’t forget that your data needs to be on for this detection method to be valid. If you’re sitting at home and using Wi-Fi all the time, check your network traffic for any signs of suspicious activity using a firewall and similar tools. In case other family members, roommates, or friends connect to the same network picking up something suspicious may be a more demanding task.
Over-the-top battery usage
If you’ve noticed your phone’s battery life is shorter than it used to be and your device is not that old, this is another reason for concern. The reason is that stalkerware tends to put additional strain on your battery, and given how it checks what you’re up to all the time, it’s not that hard to understand why your phone may be working overtime.
If you are not sure, check if your phone is overheating. Now, bear in mind that some degree of overheating is normal when playing graphically-intense video games or something similar. But if you’re not doing anything along these lines, be on your guard.
One of the classic signs of malware infection is seeing intrusive pop-ups being displayed on your computer or smartphone.
Sometimes, a malignant pop-up could also disguise itself as a system reminder that prompts you to install updates. You’ve noticed unexplained bookmarks or shortcuts on your desktop that you don’t quite remember creating yourself – another telltale sign of an infection.
Tips on How to Protect Your Privacy
Reset the system
If you have a reasonable suspicion that you’ve been infected with stalkerware, the fastest and surest way to get rid of it is to reset your system.
If you go down that route, make sure to backup your data beforehand! For Android phones, this option is located in Settings – Backup & Reset – Factory settings. For iPhones, go to Settings – General – Reset.
If you’re trying to salvage your computer, you’re going to have to reinstall the system. If you don’t want to go through the lengthy process, scanning your computer with an antivirus tool is a so-called middle ground, but that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to find it and get rid of it.
This is the first step, but you’re not done yet! The next thing to do is to change your passwords immediately. After all, you never know what has been compromised, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your internet connection and hides your IP address, so the next time you’re online, your stalker won’t be the wiser. It’s also much harder to hack your system if they don’t know what IP address to connect to. Click here to know more: https://nordvpn.com/what-is-a-vpn/
Stalkerware is an invasion of your privacy, so if you suspect you’ve been targeted, act now. The urge to control another human being is not the sign of a person with good intentions, so you should never put your fate in their hands.