Security firm Avast's mobile threat researchers
) found seven "stalker" apps from the Google Play Store. The apps were most likely designed by a Russian developer and spied on their targets. All of the apps were subsequently removed by Google, but not before they had been installed a total of 130,000 times in aggregate. Two of the apps, Spy Tracker, and SMS Tracker, were installed over 50,000 times each.
The apps were made to help users stalk their kids, significant others, employees and others. They tracked the target's location, collected his/her contacts, SMS and call history. However, for these apps to work, the person doing the stalking had to have access to the target's phone and install one of the apps on that device. The snoop then used his email address and password to have the same app sent to his own phone. Once placed on the target's phone, the app showed the spy how to eliminate any sign that it had been installed. No icon appeared to alert the person being stalked that an app had secretly been loaded on his or her phone.
"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."-Nikolaos Chrysaidos, head of mobile threat intelligence and security, Avast
The apps that were removed included:
- Track Employees Check Work Phone Online Spy Free
- Spy Kids Tracker
- Phone Cell Tracker
- Mobile Tracking
- Spy Tracker
- SMS Tracker
- Employee Work Spy