stalker following woman

Cybersecurity Companies Partner Up With Domestic Violence Charities to Fight Stalkerware

The Coalition Against Stalkerware hopes to be a resource for abuse victims and a pathway for security companies and advocacy organizations to work together.

Security companies and organizations that serve domestic violence survivors have formed a coalition to stop the spread of “stalkerware,” the term used to describe apps or malware that can steal messages, track people’s movements and turn on phone cameras without the user’s consent.

The Coalition Against Stalkerware has several long-term goals, including the development of best practices for detecting stalker apps and promoting public awareness of the dangers of stalkerware. Above all, the coalition’s site aims to be a one-stop shop for domestic violence victims who need more information about how to protect themselves from stalkerware and the steps they should take after discovering a tracking app on their devices.

Ten organizations have signed on as partners so far, including cybersecurity companies Avira, Kapersky, NortonLifeLock and G DATA Cyber Defense. Advocacy organizations from the U.S. and Europe are also part of the coalition, including the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

The coalition cited a growing number of stalkerware victims seeking assistance with the issue and the high amount of stalkerware variants available to abusers. Kapersky said it detected 380 variants in 2019, a 31 percent increase over last year.

Read more: FTC Bans Company From Selling ‘Stalkerware’ Monitoring Apps

“In order to counter this issue, it is important for cybersecurity vendors and advocacy organizations to work together,” said Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky, the head of anti-malware research at Kapersky.

Zakorzhevsky noted that the IT security industry can do its part by improving detection of stalkerware and notifying users of the privacy threats as advocacy organizations continue to directly work with victims and provide feedback to cyber companies.

“Acting together, shoulder to shoulder, we will be capable of assisting survivors through technical expertise and capacity building,” he said.

The initiative also has the potential to help abuse victims determine how to react if they discover stalkerware on their devices. For instance, if an abuse victim immediately deletes an app from their device, the app could alert their abuser and cause more immediate harm to the victim. In addition, deleting stalkerware could erase evidence that would be crucial in a law enforcement investigation, according to the coalition.

Anna McKenzie, the communications manager for the European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, noted that cyberstalking often goes hand in hand with other forms of abuse, including physical and sexual violence. The problem cannot go on unaddressed, she said.

“The Coalition Against Stalkerware enables us to bring our knowledge on gender-based violence and perpetrators to IT security companies – so we can work together towards ending violence against women and girls perpetrated via new technologies,” McKenzie said in a statement.

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