How to Detect Stalkerware on iPhones

Sophia Taylor

By Sophia Taylor


Do you ever feel like someone is watching your every move? With the rise of smartphone technology, stalkers are finding new ways to spy on their victims through iPhone stalkerware. These spy apps can give a stalker access to everything you do and store on your device.

It’s a scary thought, but the good news is that there are ways to detect and combat this kind of invasive software. In this blog post, we’ll explore what iPhone stalkerware is, how it works, and most importantly, how to protect yourself against it.

“Full access to someone’s phone is essentially full access to someone’s mind” – Eva Galperin, Director of Cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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What Is iPhone Stalkerware?

Stalkerware, also known as spouseware, is the name given to a class of spyware that is commonly used by domestic abusers and angry exes to spy on their victim’s iPhone and gain access to private information. These spy apps give stalkers access to a huge amount of personal data, including messages, photos, GPS location and some can even turn on your microphone and listen in.

Stalkerware apps like FlexiSpy, mSpy and HelloSpy are readily available to anyone for as little as $14.99 and are often explicitly marketed as a way to catch a cheating husband or wife in the act.

Would-be cyber stalkers don’t need to look very hard to find these intrusive apps, with adverts even appearing on Twitter:

mSpy Lite

Could I Have Stalkerware on My iPhone?

A lot of stalkerware victims assume that it would take a skilled hacker to install a spy app on their iPhone. But in fact, these apps require practically zero technical skills to install, just a window of opportunity to tamper with the victim’s phone. This is something easily possible for most domestic stalkers. For example, many couples know their partner’s PIN code and when the phone will be unattended.

Stalkerware is a growing industry and the companies behind these malicious apps have gone to great lengths to ensure their products are stalker-friendly and easy to use. So much so, that it typically takes under 3 minutes for these apps to be installed, allowing the stalker to monitor the entire device remotely. Most stalkerware apps even provide instructions on how to make their apps completely invisible, so victims have very little chance of detecting it.

Apps that facilitate stalking can even be found on the official App Store, such as Glympse. These legitimate apps have the capability to track the location of a victim’s device and are designed with families or groups of friends in mind. Be it a parent wanting to know where their child is or a group of friends looking to share their locations while out and about. However, they can easily be abused by stalkers who install them without their target’s knowledge.

How to Find Stalkerware on an iPhone

Many victims of stalkerware are completely unaware that their devices are being monitored. Often the first signs of foul play may be that someone knows where they’ve been, who they’ve spoken to and details of their most private conversations.

Those concerned about stalkerware on their iPhone will most likely head over to the App Store to find an anti-virus app to check their phone. However, you’ll find that these apps simply don’t exist, as iOS apps can’t access areas of the phone where stalkerware typically hides. Fortunately, there are still several ways that you can find and remove stalkerware on your iPhone

1. Review app permissions

Stalkerware apps will usually require access to your photos, microphone, camera, location or other features on your iPhone in order to spy on you. Reviewing which apps have access to these features can be a quick way to reveal iPhone stalkerware. This can be done in the Settings app on your phone:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Privacy & Security.
  3. Tap a feature (e.g. Camera, Location Services) to see which apps have access to it.

Review app permissions

Fig 1. Checking which apps have access to an iPhone’s location.

2. Check all installed apps

Stalkware almost always takes the form of an app on iPhones, so reviewing which apps are installed on your device can be another great way to uncover stalkerware. The easiest way to do this is via the Settings app:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General then iPhone Storage.
  3. Scroll down and you will see a list of all installed apps.
  4. Tap an app to see more information and remove it if required.

Note: Some stalkerware apps can be hidden on iPhone, so they may not appear when reviewing apps via the Settings app.

3. Do a stalkerware scan with Certo AntiSpy

To find hidden stalkerware and other types of spyware on iPhones, run a comprehensive scan with Certo AntiSpy. The award-winning software is specifically designed to detect iPhone threats that facilitate remote monitoring of the device. Scan your device in 3 easy steps:

  1. Download Certo AntiSpy to your computer.
  2. Plug in your iPhone via USB and click Scan.
  3. View the results and remove any threats quickly and easily.

Fig 2. Results of a stalkerware scan using Certo AntiSpy.

4. Look out for signs of a Jailbreak

Many stalkerware apps require the stalker to Jailbreak the victim’s device before installing the app. This gives them greater control over the device and allows them to access files that would normally be protected. Look out for strange apps called “Cydia” or “Sileo” appearing on your home screen as this can be a sign that your device has been Jailbroken.

5. Check for custom keyboards

Some stalkerware apps use a custom keyboard as a way of spying on their victim’s activity. Custom keyboards can be a useful way to add another text input language or more emojis to a device. However, they also have access to everything you type and this means they can be used to record things like private messages or passwords. To check for custom keyboards:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap General.
  2. Tap Keyboard then tep Keyboards.
  3. On a typical device there will be two keyboards, your usual language (e.g. English US) and Emoji.
  4. Swipe left and tap Delete to remove any keyboards you don’t recognize.

Find and remove custom keyboards on iPhone

Fig 3. Finding and removing custom keyboards on iPhone.

6. Unknown profiles

Configuration profiles are a way to install custom apps on iPhones. These are typically used by software developers or companies who want to install bespoke apps that do not need to be listed publicly on the official App Store.

However, these apps do not need to pass the same strict review process, so some more tech-savvy stalkers are using configuration profiles as a way to infect iPhones with stalkerware.

This method is quite rare, but it’s relatively easy to check for:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap VPN & Device Management.
  4. Check for any Configuration Profiles or Enterprise apps you don’t recognize and remove if required.

7. Check Bluetooth devices

If configured to do so, paired Bluetooth devices could see some information from your device, including messages and notifications. We recommend checking for any Bluetooth devices that may have been added by a stalker without your consent.

  1. Go to your Bluetooth settings (Settings Bluetooth My Devices).
  2. Check for any devices you do not recognize. Specifically, look for any device that has the options Show Notifications or Share System Notifications enabled.
  3. Tap Forget This Device to unpair it from your iPhone.

Alternatively, if you do not use Bluetooth, turn it off. This will instantly stop any stalkers using Bluetooth to spy on you.

Removing unknown Bluetooth devices on iPhone

Fig 4. Removing unknown Bluetooth devices on iPhone.

Think your iPhone is hacked?

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