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Google Play Failing to Detect Stalkerware

Graham Turner

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Google Play stalkerware
Stalkerware is a collection of apps or software programs that enable someone else to track and record your phone activity.

Findings released by the Atlas VPN research team show that Android’s internal Google Play Protect service detects only 31% of stalkerware attacks.

This huge gap in security opens the door for fraudsters, who can collect sensitive information you type on your phone, such as login passwords for your email address, banking apps, or even personal identifying information.

Stalkerware functions essentially the same way as spyware. The difference being that stalkerware often won’t try and hide its intentions.

The laws around this kind of software is opaque at best, with stalkerware often operating under the guise of being used to monitor kids or elderly parents, when the actual functionality is much more pernicious.

Edward Garb, a cybersecurity researcher at Atlas VPN, comments on the recent findings: “The results show that when it comes to virus protection, a well-known brand name isn’t always the best option. The most widely used antivirus program fared the worst in this situation.

“Android users who rely on Google Play Protect to defend themselves against spyware should consider upgrading to one of the more powerful antivirus apps,” he adds.

AV-Test, an independent research institute running for more than 15 years, ran a test on the most popular security applications to see which ones perform the best in terms of spyware detection on Android devices.

Each security application had to detect 29 unique stalkerware threats. The analysis was carried out in July 2021. By far, the worst results were from the native Google Play Protect application, as it only detected nine threats out of 29, which constitutes a success rate of 31%.

NortonLifeLock Norton 360 security software had the second-worst result. Only 17 out of 29 spyware programs were detected, giving it a detection rate of 58.6%.


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How to protect yourself against stalkerware

On an Android device, there are often early warning indications that something isn’t quite right. Examples of abnormalities include unusual battery drain and slower application performance, increased data usage, and interruptions or noises during phone calls.

There’s a few simple steps you can take to mitigate the risk of stalkerware. Firstly and most importantly, don’t leave your device unattended – most software requires physical access.

Secondly, don’t use fingerprint locking. Many of the stalkerware horror stories you will read start with a jealous partner who can use your fingerprint while you sleep

Lastly, add a security app antivirus software can also detect spyware and remove it.

Graham Turner

Sub Editor

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