Two notorious stalkerware apps appear to finally have been taken offline following court ruling

Woman using mobile phone looking frustrated
(Image credit: Jamie Grill / Getty Images)

Two notorious stalkerware apps are no longer available after their websites and all other infrastructure were taken offline. 

The move is the final step in a legal process that led against Patrick Hinchy, the owner of PhoneSpector and Highster. 

According to a report by TechCrunch, Hinchy has had multiple technology companies develop the two stalkerware apps, often referred to as spouseware apps. These apps are used to spy on people, and are usually deployed by a spouse or a domestic partner. A person would secretly install the app on the other person’s phone, which would then hide on the device and forward messages, call logs, and location data, to the installer’s device.

Rising threat

But the State of New York accused Hinchy of “aggressively” promoting spyware apps. As per the report, New York Attorney General Letitia James argued that the companies published blogs that “explicitly encouraged” people to use these apps to spy on their significant others. During the process, Hinchy folded and settled with the State, agreeing to pay a fine and to notify device owners that their phones are being tracked. He’ll pay $410,000, it was said.

Now, both apps are offline, their websites are no longer working, and the server infrastructure and the wider back-end are no longer online.

The use of stalkerware has risen significantly over the last three years, recent research from Avast has claimed, with the company’s Threat Researchers department, part of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, revealing that, based on its telemetry, the possibility of encountering this form of mobile malware increased 329% since 2020. 

The best way to make sure your devices aren’t sporting any stalkerware is to go through all of the apps installed on the device and make sure they all work as intended. If the phone suddenly drops in performance, or starts crashing and freezing for no apparent reason, there could be a stalkerware app hiding somewhere.

Also, Avast says that if suddenly you have a new browser homepage, new icons on your desktop, or a different default search engine, it might be a good time to scan the phone.

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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.