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New world. The strange boom of surveillance and harassment applications

The Cerberus app on a smartphone. Photo taken in Monaco on March 10, 2014 (ERIC DULIERE / MAXPPP)

They are called mSpy, Cerberus or FlexiSpy. The latter was allegedly used in particular by the drug lord “El Chapo” to spy on his wife and his mistresses. These apps, dubbed “stalkerwares”, allow you to monitor and even harass people around you. They permanently record the GPS location and can also access the microphone, the messages you receive and anything you type on the keyboard.

The use of this software seems to have been booming in recent years, despite its prohibition. Spying on an adult, even a member of his family, without his consent, is punishable by one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.

Apple and Google are chasing these apps. Last year, Google removed almost a thousand of them from the Android app store. But often, they hide under false noses. They are presented as security or parental control programs. You can also download them directly from sites without going through the Play Store. You should know that to install such an application, you must have physical access to the victim's smartphone for several minutes. Unless you work at the DGSE or the FSB, you cannot do this remotely.

If you have any doubts, without giving in to paranoia, you must first check if an unknown new application has not been installed without your knowledge on your mobile. Then check that the Play Protect function, which on Android protects against spyware, is activated. On iPhone, in principle, it is more difficult to install a spy app if the device is not jailbroken (unlocked).

We know that confinement can create tensions in couples and families, but that is not at all a good reason to spy on oneself. Remember that this is completely illegal and subject to legal action.
The same goes for harassing apps, which allow you to send messages by pretending to be someone else or to flood a recipient with messages.

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