May 5, 2017
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Want To Know If Someone Planted Spyware on Your Computer?

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Activist Claudio Guarnieri has released a tool to detect and remove FlexiSpy from your PC.

This story is part of When Spies Come Home, a Motherboard series about powerful surveillance software ordinary people use to spy on their loved ones.

Figuring out whether someone has installed malware on your computer can be tricky. Specifically, victims of domestic abuse and surveillance often don’t knowwhat sort of software has been used to monitor them.

A new project might change that though. Last week, a security researcher released a tool for detecting FlexiSpy malware on PCs, aptly named FlexiKiller.

“The immediate goal is to provide some simple ways to reveal whether FlexiSpy is present at all,” Claudio Guarnieri, co-founder of activist and technologist group Security Without Borders, and creator of FlexiKiller, told Motherboard in an online chat. “And as usual, by transition, raise some awareness through some direct engagement.”

FlexiSpy’s malware can be installed on a range of mobile phones, as well as Mac and Windows platforms. The attacker requires physical access to the device, but once the malware is set up it can intercept phone calls and text messages, siphon emails, monitor internet browsing histories, and much more.

Although this sort of software can be legally used to monitor children or employees, FlexiSpy has, for well over a decade, marketed its products explicitly to jealous or paranoid lovers wanting to spy on their spouses.

“Many spouses cheat. They all use cell phones. Their cell phone will tell you what they won’t,” FlexiSpy’s website has read.

But as the FlexiKiller site points out, uninstalling the malware may not always be the best idea. Perhaps you want to keep evidence of the spyware for legal reasons, or whoever is using the monitoring tool may notice it has been uninstalled. Depending on the specific situation, and especially if the malware is being used to further domestic violence, removing the software may lead to other problems.

Those who think they may be targeted with consumer spyware can read some basic advice here.

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