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How to identify and remove KidsGuard stalkerware from your phone

We reported today on KidsGuard, a powerful mobile spyware. Not only is the app secretly installed on thousands of Android phones without the owners consent, it also left a server open and unprotected, exposing the data it siphoned off from victims infected devices to the internet.
This consumer-grade spyware also goes by stalkerware. Its often used by parents to monitor their kids, but all too frequently its repurposed for spying on a spouse without their knowledge or consent. These spying apps are banned from Apple and Googles app stores, but those bans have done little to curb the spread of these privacy invading apps, which can read a victims messages, listen to their phone calls, track their real-time locations and steal their contacts, photos, videos and anything else on their phones.
Stalkerware has become so reviled by privacy experts, security researchers and lawmakers that antivirus makers have promised to do more to better detect the spyware.
TechCrunch obtained a copy of the KidsGuard app. Using a burner Android phone with the microphones and cameras sealed, we tested the spywares capabilities. We also uploaded the app to online malware scanning service VirusTotal, which runs uploaded files against dozens of different antivirus makers. Only eight antivirus engines flagged the sample as malicious including Kaspersky, a member of the Coalition Against Stalkerware and F-Secure.
Yoong Jien Chiam, a researcher at F-Secures Tactical Defense unit, analyzed the app and found it can obtain GPS locations, account name, on-screen screenshots, keystrokes, and is also accessing photos, videos, and browser history.
KidsGuards developer, ClevGuard, does not make it easy to uninstall the spyware. But this brief guide will help you to identify if the spyware is on your device and how to remove it.
Before you continue, some versions of Android may have slightly different menu options, and you take these following steps at your own risk. This only removes the spyware, and does not delete any data that was uploaded to the cloud.

How to identify the spyware


If you have an Android device, go to Settings >Apps, then scroll down and see if System Update Service is listed. This is what ClevGuard calls the app to disguise it from the user. If you see it, it is likely that you are infected with the spyware.
How to identify and remove KidsGuard stalkerware from your phone

First, remove the spyware as a device administrator


Go to Settings > Security, thenDevice administrators, then untick the System Update Service box, then hit Deactivate.
How to identify and remove KidsGuard stalkerware from your phone

Then remove the apps usage access


Now, go back to Settings > Security, then scroll to Apps with usage access. Once here, tap on System Update Service, then switch off the permit usage toggle.
How to identify and remove KidsGuard stalkerware from your phone

Also remove the spywares notification access


Once that is done, go back to Settings > Sound & notification, then go to Notification access. Now switch off the toggle for System Update Service.
How to identify and remove KidsGuard stalkerware from your phone

Now you can uninstall the spyware from your device


Following those steps, you have effectively disabled the spyware. Now you are able to uninstall it. Go to Settings > Apps and scroll down to System Update Service. You should be able to hit Uninstall, but you may need to hit Force Stop first. Tap OK to uninstall the app. This may take a few minutes.
How to identify and remove KidsGuard stalkerware from your phone

Secure your device again


Now that youve rid your device of the spyware, youll need to enable a couple of settings that were switched off when your device was first infected. Firstly, go back to Settings > Security, then switch off the toggle for Unknown sources. Secondly, go to the Play Store > Play Protect. If you have the option, select Turn on. Once its on, you should check to ensure that it looks good.
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