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How to spot the software that could be spying on you

Being stalked by a stranger is scary. Finding yourself in an abusive relationship with someone who uses technology to spy on everything you do and say? Absolutely terrifying. This woman, whose ex used to stalk her after she finally escaped his abuse, is speaking out about stalker technology. This is how to spot spy software on your technology.

Spotting Spy Software Hidden On Your Phone And Other Tech

For 25 years, Maria was trapped in an abusive marriage. Her husband controlled everything she did – from her job to her finances. He would barricade her out of the house when angry and call her terrible names. Finally, one day she heard him say that he wanted her dead. With the help of her church group and family, she created an escape plan and got out of there. (1)

She moved in with her sister and finally had the freedom she’d been lacking all of these years. She got her first laptop, set up a Facebook account, and even started dating people. That’s when, little by little, she realized her husband was spying on her. Not just spying, either, but stalking her. He would quote her messages to a man she was seeing and always somehow show up wherever she was. How? Using stalker technology.

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What Is Stalker Technology?

Stalker technology, also known as stalkerware, is commercially available software that you can use to spy on someone using their personal device. Usually, people use them on people’s cell phones. This technology allows people to spy on you without your consent.

Stalkerware allows the user to see their target’s messages, location, photos, files, and even listen in on conversations they are having near the phone (aka, not actually on the phone.). They are designed to be hidden and difficult to detect. Though some companies say it is for parents to monitor their children, the reality is that it is more often used for nosy bosses and abusive partners. (2)

It is something that is relatively easy to install onto someone else’s phone. All you need is a few minutes, say, while they are in the bathroom or the shower to download it. It doesn’t involve complicated processes – most are available right in app stores. Also, it can be downloaded without them ever having to touch your phone. For example, a text inviting you to click on a link or an app is really just a scam.

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How To Check For It On Your Phone

There are several warning signs that may indicate that someone has installed stalkerware on your phone. For example, if suddenly your phone’s battery life seems rather short or starts restarting without reason, these could be signs that someone has installed spyware. From there, pay attention to the people closest to you. If they suddenly seem like they always know where you are and what you’re doing, then likely they’ve installed stalkerware on your phone.

When it comes to apps and suspicious links, be very careful. For example, when you try to delete an app that is a scam, it will throw up all kinds of warnings about things that could happen if you do. Maria reminds us not to be afraid, these are just scare tactics to prevent you from uninstalling the app that they are using to spy on you.

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You can also look at the list of all the apps on your phone. While the icons won’t appear on your phone, in the list of every app they will, though under alternative, less suspicious names. Go to Apps and Notifications, then select “see all apps”. Review the list and check out anything you don’t recognize. On Android phones, also check the settings menu, particularly the area related to security. Look for menu items that don’t look right, or that you haven’t noticed before, or that don’t match the official documentation. On your laptop, make sure you have third-party malware security installed. Norton, Malwarebytes, and Bitdefender are three of many options.

One way to get rid of stalkerware is to do a full factory reset of your phone. Make sure important things are backed up somewhere else and do a clean wipe of your phone. Change all of your passwords and make sure you set up two-factor authentication on apps.

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They aren’t illegal, however, after much campaigning from people like Maria and groups like the Coalition Against Stalkerware, Apple and Google are monitoring these types of apps more closely. For example, Google now removes apps from the play store if they find stalker-like behavior. Apple has made it so that it is nearly impossible to install these kinds of apps on their phones at all.

As always, if you think you are being stalked in any way or that your safety is at risk, call the police. Make sure that you stand up for yourself and explain the gravity of the situation. They also may be able to help you confirm not just that there is spyware on your phone, but who installed it.

Keep Reading: What’s the Worst Thing That Is Legal? Here’s What People Said.

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Sources

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  1. How to spot the software that could be spying on you.” BBC. Ivana Davidovic. December 2, 2021.
  2. How to Check Your Devices for Stalkerware.” Wired
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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