Illegal spying and iPhone stalkerware are on the rise. From large scale hacks from seasoned cybercriminals to the people closest to us using ‘spouseware’ to monitor our phones, attacks on our privacy are becoming a huge problem. As a result, it is imperative that you are able to recognize the tell-tale signs that your iPhone has been hacked. We also recently outlined the ways in which you can tell if your Apple ID has been hacked, which you can read here.
Realizing that you have been hacked, however, is only the first step. The next question is, how can you remove stalkerware apps that have been attached to your iPhone, and once you have removed it, how can you keep your iPhone secure in the future?
Steps for removing iPhone stalkerware
It is important to note that if you suspect someone has installed stalkerware on your phone, you should be careful when confronting them or deleting the app permanently.
Domestic abuse charity Refuge state that: ‘Many abusers use spyware as a way to monitor and control survivors. Some abusers may escalate their control and monitoring if they suspect that the survivor is cutting off their access. Think through your safety as you consider ways to protect yourself.’
We have listed several methods below that will allow you to disrupt the function of any stalkerware apps without deleting them permanently and alerting the culprit that you are aware of its presence.
1. Update your iOS version
In most cases, performing an iOS update will stop any installed stalkerware from functioning on your iPhone. To carry out an update, simply go to Settings > General > Software Update and ask your phone to begin updating. Once the iOS update is completed it should render the stalkerware useless to whoever installed it.
2. Reboot your iPhone
As simple as it may seem, most iOS stalkerware needs to be continuously running to function. This means that it relies on the phone being left switched on for long periods of time. By restarting your phone, you are able to break the continuous cycle of the app which means that it will no longer be able track you.
3. Enable two-factor authentication with your Apple ID
Some stalkerware apps for iPhone work by acquiring data from their victim’s iCloud backups and therefore rely on access to your Apple account. By enabling two-factor authentication, your account will be protected from this type of attack and any existing stalkerware will be blocked. Using two-factor authentication will also help to protect your phone in the future. You can find out how to enable it here.
4. Turn off permissions for unknown apps using your location, camera or microphone
Check your iPhone to see which apps have permission to access certain features on your device. You can check this manually yourself by tapping Settings > Privacy or run a scan with Certo AntiSpy. Certo AntiSpy will show you exactly which apps can access your location, camera or microphone as well as find any hidden stalkerware on your iPhone. If you identify any suspicious apps then you have two options. You can either revoke permission to block access to the feature or uninstall the app entirely.
5. Perform a factory reset
This is a last resort that should only be used if nothing else works. This method will completely erase all data from your phone, including any stalkerware. This will also wipe your personal data too, so make sure you back up any contacts, photos, videos etc. that you want to keep. To perform a factory reset on your iOS device, plug your phone into a computer running iTunes, then reset it from there using the ‘Restore iPhone’ option. By completely removing stalkerware from your device it may alert whoever installed it, so if you use this method make sure that it is safe to do so.
How to protect your iPhone from Stalkerware
Once you have identified and removed stalkerware from your iPhone, it is important that you maintain good security practices in the future to avoid further incidents. Here are some top tips to keep you safe:
Keep your iPhone up to date
Apple regularly releases new software updates that improve the security of your device and help you to protect it from hackers. A lot of iPhone stalkerware apps also rely on out-of-date operating systems. As a result, keeping your phone up to date can be a quick and easy way to guard against these types of apps.
Use a strong passcode
Make sure that you choose a complex passcode with at least 6 characters. Given that many stalkerware apps are installed by people that know their victim, it is also important not to use something that would be memorable to someone else. Examples of bad passwords would be your date of birth, names of children/pets, or something that anyone could guess such as 123456, etc. If they are available on your device, use biometric features such as fingerprints or Face ID.
Regularly scan your device for threats
Tools such as Certo AntiSpy can check your device for stalkerware and other threats that could compromise your privacy. If you are concerned about stalkerware or think someone has tampered with your iPhone, then run a scan to help you ascertain whether you have been compromised.
Don’t share accounts with someone else
It’s not unusual for couples and family members to share accounts. However, this trust can be abused by the people closest. If you are worried that this is the case, then we recommend using separate accounts. This means that your important data isn’t shared and easily accessed without your consent.
Hackers are always finding new ways to access your sensitive information, so you need to be vigilant to changing threats to your phone’s security. Certo AntiSpy gives you the tools to identify and dismantle stalkerware. It is the only iPhone spyware scanning tool on the market and can tell you if there is any malware on your device helping to protect you from hackers. If you have any suspicions about your phone, you need to find out so that you can deal with it quickly and safely.