What are Stalkerware and Spyware Surveillance Apps?

Stalkerware or spyware are a type of surveillance software that allows one person to secretly monitor and record information about another person’s phone activity.

Stalkerware apps are also called spy apps. They are often used to monitor the phone of a loved one, a child, or even an employee.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about spyware.

How Does Stalkerware work?

Stalkerware apps work by downloading information from an individual’s phone and storing it on a server. This information is then available for viewing by the person who purchased the software.

The requirements and installation vary depending on the type of phone that needs to be monitored. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular phone operating systems. For more detailed information on how these applications are developed check out this article.

Can Stalkerware Be Installed on an iPhone?

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The sandbox protections built into Apple’s iOS operating system makes it very difficult to install stalkware directly on an iPhone, but there are two ways around this.

Method 1 – iCloud

The most popular way to circumvent iPhone security is through the user’s iCloud account. This is where backups of the iPhone are stored.

All you need to know is the AppleID and password of the iCloud account of the person you want to monitor. Once these credentials are entered into a spy app all of their phone data will be downloaded to a server for viewing.

Method 2 – Jailbreaking

The second method of installing a surveillance app on an iPhone is to jailbreak it. Jailbreaking essentially “unlocks” the phone. This allows a surveillance application to read ALL the data on the phone. Apps that use this method allow you to see EVERYTHING on an iPhone. The downside is that anytime there is a operating system update the spying application must be reinstalled.

Jailbreaking also voids the warranty of the iPhone, but factory resetting the device will restore it to normal functionality.

Can Stalkerware Be Installed on an Android?

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Stalkerware can be installed on an Android phone or device in a matter of minutes. Once installed the surveillance app will use the phone’s cell or wifi connection to upload data to a server. This information can then be viewed by the purchaser of the surveillance app.

While it used to be necessary to root an Android device in order to spy on it, this is no longer the case. All you need to start spying on an Android phone is the user’s passcode to unlock the phone and a couple minutes to download and configure the app.

What can Stalkerware do?

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Stalkerware apps allow you to monitor a surprising amount of data from the target device. The capabilities vary depending on the operating system of the target device. Rooting (Android) and jailbreaking (iPhone/iOS) allows you to see even more information.

Capabilities on iOS Devices

While spying apps can access an iPhones data in the cloud, they are still limits on which apps can be monitored. These include contacts, phone call logs, iMessages and SMS text messages, GPS location, WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook messenger, Instagram, Skype, browser history, and recently used wifi networks.

Capabilities on Android Devices

Android spyware apps allow you to monitor contacts, phone call logs, iMessages and SMS text messages, GPS location, WhatsApp, Facebook, Facebook messenger, Instagram, Skype, Tik Tok, Snapchat, browser history, keylogging, and recently used wifi networks.

Is Stalkerware Malware?

Stalkerware is a form of malware that allows a stalker to spy on the phone of another person. Most of these apps will be identified by the phone’s operating system as malware. For this reason the phone’s security settings must be changed when the malware is installed so the operating system won’t delete the app or notify the owner of it’s presence.

Is Stalkerware illegal?

While there is no legislation specifically targeting stalkerware, it is illegal to secretly spy on someone’s phone without their consent. Precedent is pulled from US wiretapping laws which makes it a felony to spy on someone’s phone communications.

There are a couple exceptions to this rule. It is legal for a parent or guardian to monitor the phone of a child.

It is also legal for an employer to monitor the work phone of an employee with their consent, but this is subject to the laws of the state in which the target person resides.

Here’s one example in a one-part consent state…

So in one-party consent states, you could place such software on, for example, phones you provide to your employees (assuming you are a manager or business owner who provides phones) so long as you notify the employees of the software and get their consent (make it written consent and keep a copy of the consent filed safely, so you can prove consent later if necessary) to do so.

from Freeadvice.com

Monitoring the phone of a spouse, partner, or anyone else without their knowledge is illegal in the United States.

How to Remove Stalkerware

There are a couple ways to remove stalkerware from a phone. In this article I go into great detail on how to find and remove spyware from an Android phone.

Can Stalkerware Survive Factory Reset?

No. Stalkerware or spyware cannot survive a factory reset. If you suspect your phone has malware or spyware installed on it performing a factory reset will erase the spying app.

About the Author Jason Thompson

Jason is a work from home dad who has a passion for DIY projects, yard work, and SEC Football. His background is IT, but he's always fancied himself as a part-time ship welder, landscaper, and short order cook. During the week he can be found on his laptop 10 hours-a-day, but on the weekends he escapes to the local DIY Cave to play with REAL toys.  You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and can contact him via email.