Technology is used to perform simple everyday tasks: shopping, banking, working and socializing. However, the powers of technology are not only limited to helpful tasks. Technology can be used to track individuals, or their activities, without their permission. Whether it is people cyber-stalking others, doxing users and businesses, or planting spyware on spouses’ devices, technology can easily be used against you.
Spyware and Stalkerware
Spyware and stalkerware cases may have dropped in recent years, but only to be replaced with more advanced technology and applications that are not only difficult to detect but remove as well.
Spyware is generic in nature and rarely personal. Cybercriminals who create such malicious software are after the personal data of victims, like financial details to carry out fraud and theft. Whereas stalkerware is personal, deployed to follow an individual and track their activities. Stalkerware apps are deployed to track spouses, children, exes, or even employees’ activities.
Stalkerware can track location through GPS, share call logs, compromise device’s camera and microphone to hear audio, take pictures of surroundings, eavesdrop on calls, and social media chats. Physical access to the device is required to install stalkerware apps. Once installed, these apps run in the background and are difficult to detect.
A Threat and Acceptance
Throughout 2020 and 2021, Kaspersky detected tens and thousands of cases of stalkerware installed on smartphones. Even though the recorded cases have declined, it is believed these numbers may have witnessed jumps due to the pandemic.
The growth of stalkerware may also have to do with a cultural element. According to a Kaspersky report, 76% of respondents found it acceptable, if they suspected their partners were cheating on them, to stalk their partners without their knowledge.
Stalkerware is more commonly found on Android devices rather than on iOS devices.
AirTags- The New Tracking Trend
Ever since Apple’s AirTag was released, individuals on TikTok and Reddit have reported how these devices were being used to track movements or even as a tool for car theft. These devices were designed to make our daily lives easier. The AirTag could be tagged to your car keys, house keys, remote, or even pet. Just ping the small tracker and it will give you the location of your misplaced items.
However, cybercriminals have found a way to exploit the product. Due to its small size and affordable price, the Airtags can be tucked away in the bottom of a bag, or purse, and can even be hidden on a vehicle. This could easily be used to track an individual’s movements without their knowledge.
How to Protect Against Stalking
What should you do if you believe you are being stalked? For smartphones, check your list of downloaded applications and see if there are any apps that you do not recognize or remember installing. However, do not rush into deleting them as that would not only notify the stalker once they stop getting data, but also destroy any potential evidence of abuse.
Be mindful of who you share your device with, particularly someone you suspect may want to track your activities. Ensure you have a pin, password, or facial recognition on your device to avoid misuse.
Tracking devices like Tiles or Air Tags can be complicated to deal with. Considering the privacy concerns, Apple has released an Android app called ‘Tracker Detect’ for Android users. This can be used to perform local Bluetooth scans to find tracking devices. Similarly, Tile will soon roll out a scanning feature on its own app to scan for nearby unwanted devices.
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