Could someone stalk you using your own smartphone?

Smartphone Tracking Software

If a stalker has installed spy software on your phone, he could connect even when you're sleeping.
If a stalker has installed spy software on your phone, he could connect even when you're sleeping.

Even if you're cautious about what information you reveal about yourself, it's possible you could be stalked by tracking software installed on your smartphone. Commercial tracking software for smartphones can serve good purposes, like keeping track of your kids or monitoring delivery employees. Unfortunately, some people have chosen to use the software for uninvited tracking activities.

Anyone can purchase commercial mobile phone tracking software from companies like AccuTracking and Retina-X Studios. The software boasts such features as reading text messages, listening to phone calls and tracking the phone's location on a map using its GPS. When installed on a smartphone, the software runs stealthily with no hint to the phone's user that it's gathering and sending this information. Our article How Location Tracking Works describes how this software works together with radios, like those found in your smartphone.

The companies that sell smartphone-spying software post disclaimers that it's the responsibility of the user to obey laws and monitor people only with their consent. But what happens when someone disregards the law? The only thing a stalker has to do to install the software is to have access to your smartphone. Then, he can quickly install tracking software, Trojan horses or other malicious code. Even if you have a passcode set on your smartphone, a savvy stalker may know a way to bypass it and gain the access he or she needs.

So, you're keeping your personal information private, and you don't let your smartphone out of your sight. Are you safe? If your phone's software has a digital vulnerability, maybe not. In early 2009, Dan Dearing of Trust Digital demonstrated a "Midnight Raid Attack," showing how an iPhone SMS vulnerability could be used to steal data from your iPhone while you're sleeping [source: Mills]. A stalker could learn about your smartphone's digital vulnerabilities and take control of your smartphone without you ever knowing.

Unless a stalker has a specific reason to target you and your smartphone, the following simple precautions could get the stalker to move on to an easier target:

  • Always keep your smartphone with you or locked in a secure location.
  • Set a passcode for your smartphone and configure the phone to prevent bypassing that code.
  • Know your smartphone's security weaknesses, and keep track of the latest news about your smartphone in case a new weakness is discovered.
  • Take action to prevent someone from exploiting those security weaknesses on your smartphone.