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What stalkerware? Use of spy app to monitor partner grows in Brazil | Security

Stalkerware, as the English term indicates, an application that tracks all activities performed on a specific victim's device and passes on information to the stalker, who may be a controlling relative or a jealous partner. Quiet and therefore more difficult to detect, attacks by stalkerwares have grown in Brazil: according to a report by cybersecurity company Kaspersky, espionage attempts have increased by 228% in the last year.

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Although most of these applications are marketed in unofficial stores and online forums, there are exceptions. In July alone, more than 130,000 people were victims of seven spy apps that managed to circumvent the security mechanisms of the Google Play Store. Next, understand what stalkerware and learn how to protect yourself from this invasive software.

What stalkerware? Partners 'spy app' generates controversy Photo: Divulgao / Kaspersky LabWhat stalkerware? Partners 'spy app' generates controversy Photo: Divulgao / Kaspersky Lab

What stalkerware? Partners 'spy app' generates controversy Photo: Divulgao / Kaspersky Lab

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Stalkerwares they are software designed to monitor the life of a specific target. Installed without the victim's consent, these applications are able to track information such as device location, browsing history, SMS messages and social media conversations. Some of them can even record videos or audio.

Although the stalkerwares can be used for a variety of purposes, including theft of credentials and bank information, the supply of so-called "spousewares", applications used by jealous partners who want to spy on the life of their spouse or boyfriend. Although clearly antithetical, this software is not at all illegal in some countries and satisfies the curiosity of stalkers for a relatively low price.

No wonder that fans of these spy apps have grown up around the world. According to a Kaspersky survey, in the first eight months of 2019, more than 37,000 people discovered this type of software on their cell phones. The number represents a jump of 35% compared to 2018.

What are the differences between stalkerware and spyware?

So much spyware how much stalkerware they are terms that refer to programs capable of secretly monitoring the activity of another person's device and sending the collected information to the spy user. The main difference between them is that, while the spyware usually comes hidden when downloading programs or files online, the stalkerware directly installed on the device of the person that the spies want to monitor.

Stalkerwares and spyware threaten users' privacy Photo: Pond5Stalkerwares and spyware threaten users' privacy Photo: Pond5

Stalkerwares and spyware threaten users' privacy Photo: Pond5

It is also worth mentioning that stalkerwares they do not have the same purpose as parental control apps, legal tools that help to mediate children's relationship with technology and ensure the safety of little ones. Unlike these, spyware programs are hidden on the device, have permissions to disable the antivirus and cannot be found in official stores.

How to detect stalkerware on the cellphone?

The action stalkerwares silent, but there are some indications that can help detect the presence of these applications on the cell phone. Among the most significant signs is the increase in the use of mobile data, as these tools use the Internet to send information about the target to the attacker. Thus, the quota of data consumption is easily exceeded.

Spikes in mobile data consumption may be indications of which cell phone is being tracked Photo: Reproduction / Ana Letcia LoubakSpikes in mobile data consumption may be indications of which cell phone is being tracked Photo: Reproduction / Ana Letcia Loubak

Spikes in mobile data consumption may be indications of which cell phone is being tracked Photo: Reproduction / Ana Letcia Loubak

If you suspect intrusions to the device, access the settings and search for "mobile data" to check an ordered list of apps that consume the most data. Sudden spikes in the graph can indicate espionage and tracking activities.

It is also likely that the victim of these malicious programs will notice a dramatic drop in the cell phone battery. This is because, when establishing communication with command and control servers in the background, stalkerwares contribute to reducing battery life. In addition, noises like beeps or voices in the background of telephone calls may indicate that a third party is recording the call.

A good tactic to find out if the device is contaminated by stalkerwares check if the option that allows the installation of applications from external sources ie downloaded outside the Google Play Store is enabled. The way to access the menu may vary depending on the version of Android, but it usually comes down to Settings> Security> Install unknown apps. If the option is enabled and you have not done so, it is likely that someone stalkerware running on your phone.

  You can protect your phone against spyware and stalkerwares Photo: Paulo Alves / TechTudo  You can protect your phone against spyware and stalkerwares Photo: Paulo Alves / TechTudo

You can protect your phone against spyware and stalkerwares Photo: Paulo Alves / TechTudo

How to avoid installing stalkerwares?

Stalkerwares they are real threats and severe privacy of users. With a few simple precautions, however, it is possible to avoid installing this surveillance software and keep the data safe from onlookers.

  • Protect your devices with secure passwords and never reveal them, even to your relatives or partners;
  • Do not leave your phone unlocked anywhere without supervision. Most of the stalkerwares requires physical access to the device to perform the installation;
  • Disable fingerprint unlocking. Controlling and jealous partners can press your finger against the reader while you sleep;
  • Block the installation of applications from external sources;
  • Periodically check the apps installed on your phone and delete those that look suspicious or you don't remember downloading;
  • Keep your device's antivirus up to date.

Legal implications of abusive practice

Bill approved by the Federal Senate punishes with detention those who pursue the online partner Photo: Luciana Maline / TechTudoBill approved by the Federal Senate punishes with detention those who pursue the online partner Photo: Luciana Maline / TechTudo

Bill approved by the Federal Senate punishes with detention those who pursue the online partner Photo: Luciana Maline / TechTudo

In August, the Federal Senate's Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ) approved a bill (PL) that criminalizes the practice of stalking, either physically or online. It is worth mentioning that the current law considers the persecution of someone obsessively as a criminal offense, and in crime, and punishes the act with imprisonment from 15 days to two months, or a fine.

With the approval of PL 1369/2019, the penalty provided for stalkers it goes from six months to two years in prison or a fine. The crime will also be classified as qualified when the perpetrator has or has had some type of intimate relationship with the victim. In these cases, the detention lasts from one to three years. The text is now being processed with priority by the Chamber of Deputies.

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