ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER BATCH of bad apps purged from Google's Play Store; this time multiple stalkerware people-tracking apps.
Cybersecurity firms Avast discovered that seven apps on the Play Store - Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free, Spy Kids Tracker, Phone Cell Tracker, Mobile Tracking, Spy Tracker, SMS Tracker, Employee Work Spy - were not only enabling users to stalk targeted Android phones, but the apps were also collecting sensitive data like call history and text messages. Basically, these apps were perfect tools for cyber stalkers.
Such apps are often presented as ways for parents to monitor children and for organisations to track workers, which is not so legit in our eyes. But CNET reported that most users of such apps weren't using them for their supposed intended purpose, and were instead using them for stalking, notably for tracking people in personal or romantic relationships.
While Google's Play Store policies are against such apps, it would appear they've managed to sneak past the search giant's digital bouncers. And equally worrying is how the apps offer the means for users to basically remove any hint that they might be on a target's phone.
There also appeared to be a pretty healthy appetite for such apps, which have been downloaded a combined 130,000 times. That's not a huge number attempted to some apps and games, but it's still quite significant given the app users needs to have access to a target's phone to install the app in the first place.
"These apps are highly unethical and problematic for people's privacy and shouldn't be on the Google Play Store," said Nikolaos Chrysaidos, Avast's head of mobile threat intelligence and security. "They promote criminal behaviour, and can be abused by employers, stalkers or abusive partners to spy on their victims."
Sad, such stalkerware is nothing new and we'd not be surprised to hear of more apps get detected and pulled from the Play Store in the near future.
And the whole situation is a good warning to watch a person carefully when they ask to look at your phone for a moment. µ
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