Android phones are increasingly facing the problem of stalkerware, malicious apps that are unwittingly loaded onto your phone and collect personal information. A newly identified example is Spyhide, which has been found on at least 60,000 devices since it was created in 2016, according to data reviewed by TechCrunch.
Spyhide is an example of spyware has to be downloaded on the device, meaning someone had access to your unlocked phone and was able to install it without your knowledge. That’s why stalkerware is also referred to as spouseware.
The revelation of Spyhide’s reach underscores the growing problem of stalkerware, which potentially puts thousands in danger. A Kaspersky report found that nearly 30,000 individuals were affected by the spyware in 2022, with the rate of incidents steadily growing throughout the year.
Part of what makes it so effective is that you won’t find evidence of the app being downloaded from the Google Play store. The only way to install it is by downloading it through SpyHide’s website. Apple’s iPhones have restrictions on app downloads outside of the App Store, while Android phones allow you to “sideload” or install your own apps directly through a website or USB cable.
Spyhide steals your phone’s contacts, call logs, all messages, photos, and anything else stored on your phone. The app can even collect recordings and provide your stalker with a real-time location.
The app runs in the background so users won’t even know it’s there and stealing private information. It can even hide on your phone’s home screen. Removing an app is next to impossible if you can’t see it and don’t even know it’s something to look out for.
Spyhide was uncovered by Switzerland-hacker maia arsen crimew, who laid out the information they found on this blog post and provided the data for TechCrunch to review.
How do you get rid of it?
Finding it can be tricky because stalkerware will often disguise itself as seemingly benign apps. TechCrunch lays out some handy steps to check if you’ve been affected.
SpyHide has a faux Google Settings feature that looks similar enough to the real app, so it can easily be overlooked while skimming your phone. SpyHide can also appear as “T.Ringtone”. You won’t find these icons on your home screen, so head over to Settings to hunt them down and remove the spyware.
Removing stalkerware is a tough decision, since that may alert the person who installed the app and could put the victim in danger. For additional help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
As part of general best practice, however, uninstall any unnecessary apps. Remember to change your passwords often and set up additional verification steps to further protect your data. You can also turn on Google Play Protect to prevent malware from infecting your phone for additional protection.