Stalkerware – also known as spouseware – is a powerful surveillance software program typically sold openly online.
On a device, all messages can be read, screen activity recorded, GPS locations tracked and cameras used to spy on what an individual is doing.
According to cyber-security company Kaspersky, the number of people who have discovered such software on their devices has risen by at least 35% in the past year.
Kaspersky researchers say their protection technologies have detected stalkerware on 37,532 devices so far this year.
And principal security researcher David Emm says this is the “tip of a very large iceberg”.
“Most people will routinely protect a laptop or desktop, not that many people actually protect a mobile device,” he says.
“This information is coming back from installations of our product on [smartphones]… so this figure doesn’t even go close to what the total would be.”
Kaspersky’s findings indicate Russia is the country with the highest levels of stalkerware activity. India, Brazil, the United States and Germany complete the top five, with the UK in eighth place with 730 detections.
Another security company says there are practical steps people can take if they suspect they are already being spied on.
“It’s always advisable to check which apps are on your phone and conduct a virus scan where necessary and if there are any apps on your device that you do not recognise it, then it is worth searching online for reviews and deleting them,” says Jake Moore, from Eset.
“As a general rule, if you aren’t using an app, delete it,” he advised.
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