Is spyware the greatest threat to online privacy, or a cybersecurity necessity?

Is spyware the greatest threat to online privacy, or a cybersecurity necessity? 

Horace C. White

Modern Tokyo Times

Dealing with Stalkerware infected devices

It usually starts with a very simple text message, email and/or photo image attachment. But this is quite different from the love text and/or photo a man’s wife sends to show her husband that she truly cares. No. This particular message has a mission as the sender has an ulterior motive. So, the next time a message and/or photo image drops on your phone, chances are that your phone may be bugged with Stalkerware. Really? Yes, really! Stalkerware.

What is Stalkerware?

Stalkerware is software that allows senders to spy on people’ smart devices, especially tablets and smartphones. The developers of the software target jealous wives who wish to snoop on their husbands, parents who wish to keep close tabs on their kid’s online activities, bosses who wish to secretly monitor the activities of their staffers, etc.

Discovered by Cian Heasley, a cybersecurity expert, Stalkerware runs on a victim’s phone by intercepting and stealing the victim’s phone calls, messages, GPS coordinates, browsing history and photos. To achieve this, the sender can remotely spy on the victim’s mobile phone. Basically, if you wish to use this app, you will have to create an online account and have the app installed on the mobile phone you wish to feast on.

Some facts about Stalkerware

For tens of thousands of computer users around the world, Stalkerware may just sound Greek.

On why people are increasingly using this spyware, Eva Galperin, cybersecurity director at Electronic Frontier Foundation, puts the reasoning behind it into perspective. The cybersecurity expert criticized people who use the app. With respect to companies, Galperin pointed out that those companies that snoop on their staffers are not sure of the security of their data. Hence, they must spy on their employees.

Stalkerware Use and Testimony

One of such spyware is PhoneSheriff, which is used by parents who are concerned about their kids’ activities online, and how they are using their mobile phones devices. Developed by US-based software development company Retina-X, PhoneSheriff helps operators to keep an eye on the activities of the victim on the go. Studies show that over 130,000 users have signed up on either Retina-X or FLexiSpy, similar spying software. And this figure is expected to rocket in the coming years.

Many people wonder if this Stalkerware is really serving its purpose. For instance, one FLexiSpy user who spoke with Motherboard attested to the fact that the spyware has been helpful. According to a 5th-grade teacher who lives in Washington DC, the software helped him catch his cheating ex-girlfriend. He disclosed that he was able to do that because the software intercepted her telephone conversation with the other man.

How Do You Detect Stalkerware?

One fact you must know is that no one can install the software without coming into physical contact with you. However, you can inadvertently install it yourself by following a link to install something you have no idea what it is. These links could come as email, SMS, social media messages, photo images, and others. To be on the safe side, you are strongly advised to ignore and delete such messages whenever you see them. In truth, many culprits who use Stalkerware, with the exception of parents who have a duty to protect children online, may not employ this spyware out of fear they can be beaten at their own game, especially when the victim counters the spyware by employing a reverse style, digital, Trojan Horse-like method to collect evidence for litigation purposes.

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