Current Affairs

Why is spyware and stalkerware gaining traction under the pandemic?

What are they?

  • Spyware is a type of malware that aims to gather information about a person or organization, without their knowledge, and send such information to hack another entity without the consumer’s consent.
  • Stalkerware is monitoring software or spyware that is used for stalking. The term was coined when people started to widely use commercial spyware to spy on their spouses or intimate partners.
  • Ironically, most spyware and stalkerware apps disguise themselves as anti-theft applications that can be used to track in case the device is stolen or gets lost, cyber-security experts warn.

How do such apps work?

  • There are two of three-types of spyware and stalkerware applications. For spyware apps, the easiest method is to disguise the spying code inside the unauthorised versions of premium apps.
  • For example, someone can claim to have a cracked version of a premium app such as Spotify. Now, whoever installs such apps can be remotely tracked easily. Since the code of the application (inside which the spyware codes are hidden) do not spy on the users, such codes pass the scrutiny of anti-virus programmes

Difference in the way stalkerware works:

  • Stalkerware apps on the other hand, seek explicit permissions at the time of their installation. Once the app is installed in the phone, it can be hidden from the apps menu into the background, from where they continue functioning.
  • There are some dedicated apps which people install on their partners’ or their kids’ phones. When you install such apps, it asks for permissions such as access to gallery locations, call logs among other things. Once you do that, the master device which has a dashboard can see whatever is going on with the other device,

Why has the usage of such apps increased during lockdown?

  • One of the main reasons, experts said, is the increased usage of the internet by everyone due to various lockdown measures in place.
  • With apprehensions around Covid still in place, everything has gone online. Anything and everything which could be bought offline from a market is now at your doorstep. But bringing that to the doorstep requires going online, which is where the opportunities for cyber criminals come
  • Emerging data shows that since the outbreak of COVID-19, reports of violence against women, and particularly domestic violence, have increased in several countries as security, health, and money worries create tensions and strains accentuated by the cramped and confined living conditions of lockdown,” the UN women had said in its report.