Can Someone Stalk You Using Your Smartphone?
You might wonder if someone could actually track you down or, worse, find you using the information from your smartphone. Yes, it is possible. Smartphones and other connected devices put a world of information and convenience at your fingertips. On the other hand, they might also leave you vulnerable to attack by scammers and hackers.
What about a stalker?
There are two main ways that potential stalkers can follow you using your smartphone. Social engineering is one approach, which requires little to no technical knowledge. You might be willingly granting someone you know or trust access to your smartphone or personal information. Even if you don’t want to be tracked, you still might be if that person chooses to. They can locate you and learn what you are doing using the information you gave them.
Taking information from your smartphone will allow stalkers to find you in another way. For them to gain access to your smartphone or install malware or tracking software, they must possess more technical knowledge. They can then use those to access malicious websites, download your address book, or even track your whereabouts.
If your smartphone has GPS, any time the GPS is turned on a stalker could determine the exact location of the phone.
The good news is that you can take a few safety measures to avert potential issues.
Smartphone Social Network Stalking
You make it simple for stalkers to find you when you voluntarily share your location and what you’re doing with the public. Our use of our smartphones to post messages on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is fundamental to their design.
Your location might be obvious from your photographs even if you don’t mention it. Anything that can be recognized in your photos, such as buildings, license plates, and even street signs, may reveal information about you and your location. Also, the majority of smartphones geotag photos, adding the latitude, longitude, and even altitude information of the location where they were taken. That information, as well as the time the photo was taken, is uploaded. Be aware of how various social networking sites use and reveal the geotags of photos uploaded to their sites and check the settings on your smartphone to turn off geotagging.
All this is to say, use your smartphone as an extension of your social networks and never post anything you wouldn’t want the world to know if you want to prevent being stalked online.
Apps for stalking on Smartphones
You run the risk of being stalked by someone using the apps on your smartphone, even if you’re careful about the information you share online. Someone can download stalking apps (also referred to as spyware and “stalkerware”) onto your phone and use them to covertly track you. If one is installed, it can offer detailed information about what you do on your phone, right down to your account passwords. Some can even activate the microphone and camera on your phone, allowing the person to see and hear from it remotely.
How can you tell if your phone is running “stalkerware”? It may not be that simple. Antivirus software might not even catch it, but there may be warning signs to watch out for:
- Your phone was in the hands of a perpetrator.
- Your phone’s battery drains faster than usual, regardless of how you use it.
- Your data consumption has increased inexplicably.
- Your phone’s settings have changed unexpectedly.
Don’t delete it right away if you see anything suspicious. If you report the abuse to law enforcement, you may require it as evidence. Change your password instead, then turn on two-factor authentication. This can stop the hacker or abuser who is using “stalkerware” from accessing your phone again. After you contact law enforcement and provide the evidence, update the software on your phone to get rid of “stalkerware”. Then start over by wiping the data off of your phone.
Signal Interception on Smartphones
Even though smartphone theft and identity theft aren’t specifically stalking-related, they are still ways for a stalker to locate you. As previously discussed, a stalker could target your smartphone and intercept private calls and messages using tracking software. However, he or she might also use signal interception to launch an unintended assault on your smartphone.
Your smartphone communicates using a variety of radios and signals. Your smartphone uses one or more mobile network protocols, such as 4G LTE and 5G, for making and receiving calls, sending texts, and browsing the internet. You might also have a short-range Bluetooth radio, a GPS receiver, and one or more radios for syncing with various Wi-Fi networks, depending on the smartphone.
Open Wi-Fi networks, such as those found in coffee shops and airports, are particularly susceptible to hacking. Hacking software can easily intercept the unencrypted data sent into the wireless router and take possession of your location information, banking information, and online passwords. To further simplify this process, hackers might set up their own Wi-Fi access point near busy areas.
Even though the best defense against this is to simply avoid using public WiFi, there are times when that is the only way to connect to the internet. Avoid accessing online banking and other secure services when using an open network connection. Installing a virtual private network (VPN) will also give your device an additional layer of security.
Security can also be affected by the apps you decide to use on your phone. Numerous apps have access to the location, contacts, cameras, and other private data about the user. These permissions must be manually requested and approved by the user on Android and iPhone. Later, you can revoke them in the settings of your phone.
It’s best to give apps that have been released by reputable companies access to your data in order to ensure your security. Furthermore, you should only grant these permissions if they are necessary for the app to function. For example, requesting location information from a navigation app makes perfect sense, but doing the same from a calculator app should raise a red flag. Always carefully read through each permission request because some applications might try to see your location whenever the phone is turned on.
In order to access your data or defraud you of money, scammers may also use popular hacking techniques spoofing and phishing. Spoofing conceals the true phone number of an incoming call. The number will usually appear to be local to you, but it could be from anywhere on the planet. When you answer the phone, the scammer employs phishing techniques, such as claiming to work for your bank or a reputed company. They’ll then claim that you owe money or that your account has been compromised. They’ll use that as a cover to get you to hand over personal information or send money to them.
Never divulge your bank account information to an unknown caller. Consider hanging up and dialing a verified phone number for the business or government agency the caller claims to represent if you have any doubts about the call’s legitimacy. Any request over the phone for money transfers in the form of traveler’s checks or gift cards should immediately raise red flags because phishers frequently make similar requests.
Using a stingray, also referred to as a cell site simulator, third parties may try to scrub your personal information. The Stingray is a short-range wireless gadget that impersonates a typical cell tower. Once connected, the target’s phone behaves as though it were on a real network. Without your knowledge, any texts, pictures, locations, and other data sent close to the stingray will be compromised.
Because of the stingray’s nature, it is extremely difficult to even determine if an attack is taking place. Turn off your phone if you believe you are in the range of a cell simulator. If possible, take out the battery. To prevent any data from leaving the phone, you might also want to use a faraday cage to block out the stingray.
While keeping hackers and snoopers at bay, you can still enjoy your smartphone. Simply try to familiarize yourself with your smartphone to know its weaknesses and learn how to keep it secure and keep your personal information personal.