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Android Stalkerware Test 2021

AV-Comparatives tests how well AV software detects hidden spy programs on Android phones, and offers advice for potential victims.

Independent antivirus testing lab AV-Comparatives has released the results of its 2021 test relating to stalkerware programs on Android smartphones. Stalkerware is hidden software that can secretly spy on the user’s activities. It can monitor and record phone and video calls, and let the stalker read the user’s emails, text and social media messages. Internet browsing history may also be recorded. With mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and phones, stalkerware can track the user’s physical location over time. It can be used by individuals to spy on their partners, or by governments to monitor the activities of political dissenters.

AV-Comparatives started testing detection of stalkerware in 2019, after talks with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an NGO that promotes civil liberties, and is a founding member of the Coalition against Stalkerware.

Stalkerware exploits a grey area of the law. The companies that make it state that it should only be used for legitimate purposes, such as parents monitoring their children’s Internet use, or employers keeping an eye on their staff. However, unlike genuine programs for these purposes, stalkerware tries its best to hide its presence on the user’s device. There might be no shortcuts or program icons to be seen, and no entries in lists of installed programs. Unless you are a technical expert, the best way to check for installed stalkerware on your device(s) is to use a good security solution.

Andreas Clementi, CEO and founder of AV-Comparatives, said “Sadly, the use of stalkerware has been on the increase, even in these times of lockdown. Our report aims to increase awareness of the problem. We have provided valuable information about stalkerware, and what to do if you think you might be a victim of it”.

AV-Comparatives is an independent, ISO-certified testing lab based in Innsbruck, Austria. It specialises in rigorous tests of security software, to check how well different products protect against current cyber-threats. In this test of protection against stalkerware, the institute’s experts looked at antivirus products for Android smartphones. 10 popular security products were checked to see how effectively they detected current stalkerware apps. Android AV apps made by the following vendors were tested: Avast, Avira, Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, G Data, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, NortonLifeLock, Trend Micro.

To find out how to protect yourself against stalkerware, visit AV-Comparatives’ website. Like all the lab’s publications, the report is made available free of charge to everyone.