Mobile stalkerware has all sorts of wide-ranging consequences. The creators of these types of apps can track user’s locations, see their social media usage and more. And they certainly open the door for abuse by governments hoping to spy on their citizens, parents looking to track their children or controlling spouses hoping to track every move their partners make. This class of software exists to surreptitiously get and provide this personal information, sometimes in real time.

Cisco Talos recently spotted a wave of vendors hawking this software, designed to spy on unsuspecting users. We observed apps across the globe — including activities in countries that have some of the worst human rights records — with vendors offering language- and country-specific services. In all, there were 87 vendors we discovered as part of our research, which we believes poses a serious threat to at-risk individuals. The stalkerware space is completely unregulated, and these apps are allowed to exist on many app stores for extended periods of time, with their creators even offering easy to follow tutorials online as to how to trick users into downloading these apps. This is an easily accessible, yet volatile, market.

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