The Stalking Resource Center reports that 6.6 million people are stalked in one year in the U.S., and 76 percent of femicide victims have been stalked by their intimate partner. Now, with the wide availability of commercial spyware, the stalker has another powerful tool to use. According to NPR’s All Tech Considered, an astonishing 85 percent of the shelters they surveyed report working directly with victims who say their intimate partner stalked them using GPS, with 75 percent reporting the use of remote surveillance tools like spyware.
One popular spyware program, Stealthgenie, claims it is so easy to install that “even your grandad will be monitoring phones in no time!” According to a blog post on Workplacetablet.com, ten minutes alone with a cell phone is all a stalker needs to install the spyware. Once the software is installed, it erases any trace of itself except for what looks like a legitimate file, such as “android.sys,”which looks like it belongs on the phone. Another spyware program, mSpy can remotely record calls made from or received on the phone; restrict calls from certain numbers; view any text message; read emails; track GPS location; view browser history, favorites and block websites; access calendar, address book, and contacts; manage wireless connections; track Skype calls and read Skype messages; monitor WhatsApp, Snapchat and other social networks; remotely snap photos with no sound or flash, view surroundings; listen in on any conversations occurring within range of the phone; monitor and block any applications on the device; see all keyboard strokes entered; view all photos and videos; device wipeout - resets the device and destroys all data; render the device useless by locking it.
While it is difficult to detect stalkerware on mobile devices (which include phones, tablets and some iPod/mp3 players) it can be done. A battery that drains faster than usual, strange background noises when calls are made, a phone that suddenly lights up and becomes active for no reason are all possible indicators that spyware has been installed. An iPhone would have to be jailbroken before spyware could be installed. ‘Installer app,’ ‘cydia’ or ‘icy’ on the home screen, indicate the phone has been jailbroken. Also, if all apps on the phone are not listed in the user’s Apple store account it means the phone has been jailbroken. Updating the operating system is the easiest way to remove the spyware and the jailbreak, but data should be backed up first.
Surveillance has always been part of domestic violence. In the past, a victim would have been followed around by a stalker. Now stalkers can sit back and watch from the comfort of their own sofa, or from their desk at work.
Please take a moment to ensure all your devices are safely private, and share this information with friends.