Recently, Google removed seven apps from Google Play Store after cybersecurity vendor found them to be stalkerware. Read on to know more about it…
Recently, Google removed seven apps from Google Play Store after research from cybersecurity vendor Avast found them to be stalkerware which allowed people to stalk on their employees, children, or partner. Avast reported the seven appsto Google after which they were quickly removed from the Play Store.
The spying apps were published on the Play Store as being tools designed to help parents to monitor their kids or help employers monitor work time of their employees.
The apps were published under the following names:
• Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free
• Spy Kids Tracker
• Phone Cell Tracker
• Mobile Tracking
• Spy Tracker
• SMS Tracker
• Employee Work Spy
Among the seven apps that have been removed by Google, Spy Tracker and SMS Tracker were the most popular, both installed more than 50,000 times. All of the seven apps combined were installed more than 130,000 times.
All of the apps allowed snoopers the ability to access all kinds of sensitive information, including device location, contact lists, SMS messages, call history. All seven apps were created by the same Russian developer and could forward phone data via email to anyone that installed them.
Once installed, all it required was an email address and password so that all data could be sent to that inbox. What is more concerning is that once installed, the phone owner wouldn’t be aware or able to detect the spying app. It’s possible to hide all signs of the app running.
The intrusive apps required the perpetrator to gain access to the target’s phone and then install the app to begin spying. They were then prompted to enter their email address and password so the spying app could be sent there. After that, snoops could access sensitive information such as the target’s location, contacts, SMS, and call history. It is almost impossible for the target to detect the spying app as the snoop can hide all signs of the app from the targeted phone, including icons.
Nikolaos Chrysaidos, head of mobile threat intelligence and security at Avast, said in a statement “These apps are highly unethical and problematic for people’s privacy and shouldn’t be on the Google Play Store, they promote criminal behavior, and can be abused by employers, stalkers or abusive partners to spy on their victims. We classify such apps as stalkerware, and using apklab.io we can identify such apps quickly, and collaborate with Google to get them removed.”
Stalkerware, which once seemed inaccessible to the smartphone users has now taken the form of applications that allow someone to remotely monitor another person’s activity. One of the challenges in identifying these spying apps is the nature of “dual use” apps. For instance, one of the apps Google removed was “Spy Kids Tracker,” a parental surveillance app that allowed people to read texts, view photos, and access the GPS location of a phone it had secretly been installed on and there’s countless more apps out there like this.