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Security & privacy

FTC just banned a spyware app with 1M downloads – How to know if it’s on your phone

Have you ever thought that someone knows just a little too much about your private life? Your mobile phone could be infected with stalkerware, and it’s as bad as it sounds. The technology is sold to people who want to track others, often without their knowledge.

Spyware comes in different configurations and ranges from simple location tracking to spying on the phone’s content or the ability to read messages. It should go without saying that it is a hazardous industry.

To tackle the problem, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has now banned one development company behind stalkerware. Here’s what you need to know and how to protect your privacy.

Here’s the backstory

While plenty of companies sell stalkerware, the FTC has banned SpyFone from the surveillance industry. The company has been facing allegations that its apps are used to spy on unsuspecting victims.

The FTC explained in a media release that SpyFone’s apps “secretly harvested and shared data on people’s physical movements, phone use, and online activities.” For example, if someone is going through a breakup or divorce, the stolen data can be a blackmailing tool.

Many also argue that stalkerware is implemented by abusive spouses, using it as a form of control and manipulation. To make matters worse, SpyFone’s apps have been downloaded over a million times from the Google Play Store.

What you can do about stalkerware

By the nature of the software, you might never know that your mobile phone is being spied on. It is tough to find and disable it. And that’s only if you know it’s on your device.

In addition to banning the company, the FTC suggested that SpyFone notify all victims of devices where the stalkerware was installed. The victims should be alerted that their mobile devices “might have been monitored and the devices might not be secure.” 

It is also expected of SpyFone, who now trades as Support King, to delete all illegal information gathered from victims’ phones.

And when you think it can’t get worse, SpyFone didn’t implement the correct security protocols. While ironic, it further put the victims’ details at risk, as hackers could breach the servers and scrape the illegal data.

This had already happened once before, as a hacker made off with the personal details of 2,200 victims. This included photos and text messages and app purchasers’ passwords stored in plain text.

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