There Has Been A 35% Rise In People Discovering ‘Stalkerware’ On Their Phone

Worryingly, it can often be the result of a spouse surveilling their partners activity.

Woman on the phone

by Georgia Aspinall |

A cyber-security company has warned people of the rise in spyware being discovered on devices after partners secretly install it to survey their activity. The 35% increase in the last year means that approximately 37,532 devices have stalkerware installed in the UK.

Stalkerware is surveillance software that can read messages, record screen activity and track GPS locations – as well as using cameras and microphones to spy on the person using the device. According to a BBC investigation, it is often used by spouses exhibiting coercive control by obsessively tracking their partners behaviour online.

‘My husband passed me his phone to show me a picture he'd taken,’ Amy*, a victim of stalkerware told the BBC, ‘and in that split-second I saw an alert pop up on his screen. It read, “Daily report on Amy's Mac is ready to view”.’

Spyware is often installed for protective purposes, so a laptop or device can be tracked should it be stolen or misplaced. However, it’s difficult to know how many people willingly installed spyware or were victim to a partner's malicious surveillance.

According to security researcher David Emm, the figures are probably nowhere near the reality as they only track smartphones – which are the least likely device to install spyware on.

‘Most people will routinely protect a laptop or desktop, not that many people actually protect a mobile device,’ he told the BBC. ‘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.’

It’s a terrifying thought, knowing how easily someone could install software to track your behaviour without your knowing. After all, these applications are easily available online and a partner only needs access to your password (or fingerprint) to download it. However, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the prevalence of spying on partners online.

This week, it was reported on popular sex podcast Call Her Daddy that one listener had discovered a screen recording app had been used by her boyfriend to record her phone passwords. The listener had not realised her partner was screen recording when she logged into Find My iPhone on her partner's device, unwillingly giving over her passwords to him. The app is specially designed not to notify users when it is screen recording.

Essentially, there are a whole host of online applications that enable stalking, and in consequence, abusive relationships.

At least for the stalkerware applications that cybersecurity company Kaspersky warns about, there are ways to protect yourself if you fear your being spied on by a partner.

‘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 is worth searching online for reviews and deleting them,’ Jake Moore, from security company Eset said. ‘As a general rule, if you aren't using an app, delete it.'

If you are worried about your partner monitoring your behaviour, contact Refuge on 0808 2000 247 or visit their website here.

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