The Limited Times

Now you can see non-English news...

Cell phone espionage grows strong: how to know if you were a victim of 'stalkerware'


They detect that this type of cyberattack grew 5 times in Argentina. How to identify and remove it from the phone.

The risk of finding cell phone spyware on a mobile device

has grown more than 5 times

over the last three years in Argentina, according to a new report from cybersecurity company Avast.

Stalkerware , as this type of virus is known, represents a problem


privacy and device performance.

Avast detected a


growth in Argentina between January 2020 and December 2022. “Avast Threat Researchers found that the number of people attacked by stalkerware in Argentina grew from an average rate of 5 per 100,000 people in 2020 to 26 per every 100,000 in 2022”, they explained in a report shared with



"The growth we're seeing is very worrying," says Jakub Vavra, the company's threat operations analyst.

“Such spyware is often secretly installed on mobile phones by

abusive spouses, ex-partners

, so-called friends or concerned parents, and has the capacity to inflict serious physical and psychological damage on those affected,” he adds.

"It's not just about stealing personal data, there are also tangible implications for the security of the attacked person," he continues.

According to him, one of the most worrying aspects is that these apps 

They are available in

official stores like Google Play Store.

The data is consistent with the increase in cybercrime that Avast registered over the past year in general: 200% in Argentina, with more than

10 million

detections in 2022 and with a 63% increase in snooping (the practice of spying on cell phones). of the couple),

What is stalkerware and where did it come from?

A type of malware to spy on.

Photo: Shutterstock

This virus owes its name to stalking: it is a portmanteau of the words “


” (to harass) and “


”, short for “software” (program).

Used mainly in abusive situations and toxic relationships, it is a type of virus that impacts various areas of a person: considering that the cell phone is a central part of online life, having the phone tapped can be extremely dangerous.

“The origin of stalkerware is not very clear, but some reports suggest that the first cases appeared in the



At that time, monitoring and espionage programs were created for government and military use.

Over time, some of these programs were leaked and used to spy on ordinary people”, contextualizes Santiago Pérez, a security analyst at Birmingham Cyber ​​Arms LTD.

With the passage of time, its use became more widespread.

“In the last decade, there has been an increase in the availability of these programs online.

They are often marketed as tools to monitor children or employees, spy on a partner, or harass someone,” continues the expert.

As early as 2010, spyware "added various stealth functions, as well as more comprehensive surveillance of victims' devices," Vavra adds.

“Extracting SMS messages, call logs, and even messaging apps became more common over time.

The stalkerware authors created


that could be used to monitor victims and were accessible online, streamlining the stalking process,” he adds.

How to know if you are being watched

WhatsApp, one of the most spied on applications.

Photo: Shutterstock

“Once installed on a device,

they are completely hidden

or presented as Notes applications to evade detection by the unsuspecting phone owner.

The stalker can control these apps remotely and carry out similar malicious activities,” warns the Avast expert.

However, there are symptoms that can

set off alarms

and denote its presence.

“Once installed, it usually

impacts the overall performance

of the device, something to be expected if we take into account that it is a software in charge of granting constant visibility to a third party: this dramatically triggers the device's processing,” warns Pérez.

The expert lists these warning signs that suggest the presence of stalkerware: 

  • High



  • Fast battery


  • General system


  • New, never-before-seen programs

    set to start automatically or as services

  • A never-before-seen


    being used for general system navigation or browsers

  • Increase in data


    (much more noticeable than on WiFi, for example).

  • Spontaneous reboots

    or shutdowns

  • Delay

    when turning on/off the device

Avast's Vavra adds two points that have more to do with the social than the technical: it can not only be detected on the phone but also in the use that the attacker makes of that information: “Having inexplicable calls in the log or that the


knows things about what you do, where you go and who you communicated with, are other symptoms that may indicate their presence.

How to remove stalkerware

Some of these applications also record logins.

Photo: Shutterstock

From Avast they give the following advice to eliminate these programs, not without making an important warning: "First of all, in a situation of coercive control, removing stalkerware from your phone could inform the attacker that you have found and eliminated it, which could endanger your physical safety. So make sure you are not harmed before removing the stalkerware app from your phone."

  • Reboot 

    the phone in safe mode: Press and hold the phone's power button to see the Power off and Restart options.

    Press and hold the Power off option and the Restart in safe mode option will appear.

    Click OK.

  • Remove 

    any suspicious apps


    Once booted into safe mode, open Settings and tap Apps or Apps & notifications.

    Sort apps and find anything unrecognizable.

  • Remove

    any malicious app.

    For this, it is best to have an antivirus, although some of these applications escape detection.

    A good idea is to search the web for the name of the applications that we have installed and that sound suspicious to us.

    It is likely that other users have reported it and it serves as a case to consider uninstalling an app.

About the Avast study

The data in the report comes from the Avast Threat Detection Network and represents stalkerware detected and blocked on mobile devices

between January 2020 and December 2022.



refers to the risk


, which is defined as the ratio of people attacked by spyware and actively protected by Avast in the given country and month in relation to the total number of active users in the given country and month," they clarify. from the company.

In this sense, these numbers must be

taken as a trend

and not as definitive, since it is one of the largest cybersecurity companies in the world, but not the only one.


consulted for the margin of error that this may have, since there could be false positives in the study.

“We manually crafted strain-specific detections after reviewing the potential for misuse and abuse the app could cause.

In this way we considerably minimize the possibility of false positives and are confident in the accuracy of our figures,” Vavra warned.

“Various stalkerware apps are present on official or third-party app stores, which means that users may get a detection pop-up once they download an app from these stores.

Although the application may seem official,

we focus on its ability to be used to stalk

and abuse its victims," ​​closed the representative of the antivirus company.

look also

Four out of ten Argentines know their partner's passwords: the most dangerous cases

63% of Argentines spied on their partner's cell phone: how to tell if they checked yours

Source: clarin

All tech articles on 2023-03-20

You may like

Trends 24h

Tech/Game 2023-06-08T13:51:58.973Z


© Communities 2019 - Privacy

The information on this site is from external sources that are not under our control.
The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.