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Stalkerware Test 2020

Can antivirus programs protect your privacy and civil liberties? Major new test reveals how consumer security programs can detect covert surveillance by stalkerware programs.

Independent antivirus testing lab AV-Comparatives has released the results of a major new test relating to stalkerware programs. 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.  

Surprisingly, stalkerware can be bought legally. 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 goes out of its way to hide its presence on the user’s device. There are 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 antivirus program. 

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 both Android and Windows devices. For each platform, 10 popular security products were checked to see how effectively they detected stalkerware programs. Two separate rounds of testing were performed, one in November 2019, and the second in May 2020.  

To find out which antivirus programs were most effective at detecting stalkerware, visit AV-Comparatives’ website. Like all the lab’s publications, the report is made available free of charge to everyone.