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'Stalkerware' Apps Are Proliferating. Protect Yourself


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While stalkerware apps numbered in the hundreds a few years ago, they have since grown into the thousands.

This month, the Federal Trade Commission barred one app maker, Support King, from offering SpyFone, a piece of stalkerware that gains access to a victims location, photos, and messages. It was the first ban of its kind.

Credit: Glenn Harvey

It looked like a calculator app. But it was actually spyware recording my every keystroke — the type of data that would give a stalker unfettered access to my private life.

That's what I concluded after downloading the free app Flash Keylogger onto an Android smartphone this week. The app described itself as a tool to monitor the online activities of family members by logging what they type. Once it was installed from Google's official app store, its icon could be changed to that of a calculator or calendar app. In my tests, the app documented all of my typing, including web searches, text messages and emails.

Flash Keylogger is part of a rapidly expanding group of apps known as "stalkerware." While these apps numbered in the hundreds a few years ago, they have since grown into the thousands. They are widely available on Google's Play Store and to a lesser degree on Apple's App Store, often with innocuous names like MobileTool, Agent and Cerberus. And they have become such a tool for digital domestic abuse that Apple and Google have started in the last year acknowledging that the apps are an issue.

From The New York Times
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