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stalkerware apps popular, what it is and the risks

The number of stalkerware apps has increased significantly in the last two years. According to security researchers, they not only violate the privacy of victims, but also pose security risks. In addition, the processing of sensitive data takes place in an unsafe manner.


Stalkerware are apps that secretly spy on your phone. Often manually installed on a phone by a family member or employer, these apps keep an eye on things unnoticed. The person or body that installed the app secretly receives information about your smartphone use or can even take over your device remotely.

These apps are in many cases masked as a so-called security app and they are downloaded from the website of the developers who offer them. Stalkerware has been banned from the Google Play Store since the new policy rules of October 1, 2020.

Bron: ESET

These types of apps are becoming more common, ESET security researchers say in a report. In 2019 these apps were five times more common compared to 2018, and in 2020 these apps were also found 1.5 times more than a year earlier. ESET has therefore started to analyze the operation of the apps, and it found that these apps not only compromise your privacy, but also the security of a smartphone.

Unsafe espionage

86 stalkerware apps were examined and a total of 150 different security vulnerabilities were discovered in 58 of these apps. These are serious security and privacy issues that could allow a third party – an attacker – to take control of a victim’s device, take over a stalker’s account, intercept a victim’s data, trap a victim by uploading forged evidence, or remotely executing code on a victim’s smartphone.

When the researchers discovered all these problems in the various apps, they contacted the developers in question. Then those 90 days were given before the issues were made public.

“Following our 90-day coordinated vulnerability disclosure policy for vulnerability disclosure, we have repeatedly reported these issues to affected vendors. Unfortunately, to date, only six vendors have addressed the issues we reported in their apps,” says ESET researcher Lukáš Štefanko.

Attention: stalkerware apps are popular, what they are and the risks

Better think twice

So anyone who is considering buying an app that is secretly spying on someone else for whatever reason should think twice before making that decision. Not only because it is unethical, but because you also unknowingly make the victim vulnerable to cyber attacks and fraud. In addition, ESET also found that some stalkerware apps continue to keep sensitive data of victims, even though the stalker in question orders them to be removed.

Recently we described the five signs that you can see that there is malware on your phone. Have you ever fallen victim to stalkerware on your phone? Maybe you yourself considered installing such apps on someone’s phone? Let us know in the comments at the bottom of this article.

Attention: stalkerware apps are popular, what they are and the risks

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