Do you feel like you are being eavesdropped on via your mobile phone? That's possible: there is software that is capable of transmitting your location, eavesdropping on phone calls, tracking your keystrokes, or viewing your data. This is called stalkerware. There is also a high-tech variant called spyware, but that's not what we are talking about here.
Has anyone (had) physical access to your device?
It is only possible to install stalkerware when someone has physical access to your device. If no one has (had) access to it, you can assume that you do not have stalkerware.
Is your device reacting unusually?
Some examples: the battery drains quickly without you using the device, there is high data usage, you get notifications that you do not expect, the device feels hot, or it restarts at unexpected moments.
Are there unknown apps or programs on your device?
On your phone, view the list of apps. Are there unknown apps among them? Some stalkerware apps are disguised as a calendar or calculator. In your privacy settings you can check which apps have access to, for example, your location, microphone and photos.
On your computer, you can search for unknown programs in the Task Manager (Windows via CTRL+ALT+DEL) or Activity Monitor (MacOS). Look especially at programs that use a lot of CPU, memory and disk space.
Run an antivirus scan
Some antivirus software may detect stalkerware. It is therefore useful to perform a scan on your device. More information on how to do this can be found at: https://www.safeonweb.be/en/scan-your-computer
Think before you remove stalkerware
- Some stalkerware sends a notification to the stalker, so they know if you have removed it. If you fear a violent reaction from the stalker, make sure you are in a safe place. More info: https://www.1712.be/wat-doet-1712 and https://www.slachtofferzorg.be/stalking
- By removing the stalkerware, you also remove any evidence that may be useful to the police. So first report it to the police before removing it. This way, the police can collect and examine the evidence on your device.
Removing stalkerware is complex.
Let an expert help you if you have the slightest doubt about certain actions.
- Remove the found stalkerware app or program via 'delete' and check with your antivirus software whether the stalkerware has been completely removed. Sometimes your antivirus software can also remove the stalkerware.
- To be sure, reset your device to factory settings. Before doing so, we recommend backing up your personal data, to ensure that you do not lose it. More info about taking a backup can be found at: https://www.safeonweb.be/en/make-back-ups
- After resetting, you can restore your backup. Be careful about restoring your personal data from your backup, as you want to avoid reinstalling the stalkerware. Use the cloud backup of your Google or Apple account and manually select the applications you want to reinstall.
- Change your passwords. Once the stalkerware is removed, you should immediately change all your passwords. The stalker may have been able to watch you for a long time and knows all your passwords. Perhaps the stalker has also set a 'rule' that forwards your messages. First of all, change the passwords of your mailbox and social media and then all other passwords. Learn how to protect your accounts: https://www.safeonweb.be/en/use-strong-passwords
File a complaint with the police: https://www.safeonweb.be/en/when-file-report . Installing Stalkerware is not only a violation of privacy, but it is also a crime. Keep as much evidence as possible and don't remove the stalkerware before filing your complaint.
More info about stalkerware: https://stopstalkerware.org/