30% of people see no problem in secretly monitoring their partner, finds new research on stalkerware
To mark the second anniversary of the Coalition Against Stalkerware co-founded by Kaspersky, the digital privacy company commissioned a global survey of more than 21,000 participants in 21 countries about their attitudes towards privacy and digital stalking in intimate relationships. Stalkerware enables a perpetrator to digitally monitor another person’s private life via a mobile device without the victim’s consent.
While the majority of respondents (70%) do not believe it is acceptable to monitor their partner without consent, a significant share of people (30%) see no problem at all and find it acceptable under some circumstances. Of those who think certain reasons justify secret surveillance, almost two thirds (64%) would do so if they believed their partner was being unfaithful, if it was related to their safety (63%), or if they believed them to be involved in criminal activity (50%). Looking at geographical differences, it is noticeable that the highest agreement level on monitoring in general comes from respondents in the Asia-Pacific region (24%), whereas in Europe (10%) and the Americas (8%) fewer people find this acceptable.
Beyond that, Kaspersky’s Digital Stalking in Relationships report, conducted online by Sapio Research in September 2021, shows that 15% of respondents worldwide have been required by their partner to install a monitoring app. Sadly, 34% of those indicating this answer have also already experienced abuse by an intimate partner.
Partners advising on the research were domestic violence experts from other member organizations of the Coalition Against Stalkerware: Australia's national umbrella organization for domestic violence services, Wesnet; the women’s rights organization Centre Hubertine Auclert in France; the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) in the USA; the victim support charity Refuge in the UK; and WWP EN, the European umbrella association for perpetrator programs.
“It is dangerous to justify exerting any sort of control over a partner in the light of suspected infidelity. Preventive campaigns addressing the issues of coercive control, jealousy and infidelity would be a valuable tool against these attitudes,” explains Berta Vall Castelló, Research & Development Manager, European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence (WWP EN).
The findings suggest that online monitoring can be another way of exerting coercive control in intimate relationships. Given that stalkerware is commercially available software that lies hidden on a device and provides access to an array of personal data, such as device location, browser history, text messages or social media chats, it might also not be surprising that it may serve as another tool in abusive relationships.
“I really urge anyone who is experiencing stalking — either in real life or through stalkerware — and who feels it would be unsafe or dangerous to confront their abuser, to reach out to a domestic abuse organization to get advice and support,” says Karen Bentley, Chief Executive Officer, Wesnet, Australia's national umbrella organization for domestic violence services.
“The National Network to End Domestic Violence is delighted Kaspersky is taking steps forward to increase understanding about privacy and the use of stalkerware in intimate partner relationships. More data is needed in this area and we look forward to seeing this information put to use to improve safety and privacy protections for survivors,” comments Erica Olsen, Director of Safety Net, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV).
Global detection figures and geography of affected users
Following the Coalition Against Stalkerware’s detection criteria on stalkerware, Kaspersky analyzed its statistics revealing how many of its users were affected by stalkerware in the first 10 months of the year: from January to October 2021, almost 28,000 mobile users were affected by this threat. During the same period, there were more than 3,100 cases in the EU and more than 2,300 users in North America affected.
According to Kaspersky figures, Russia, Brazil, and the United States of America (USA) remain the three leading countries in terms of the most affected countries worldwide so far. Likewise, in Europe the picture has not changed: Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom (UK) are the top three most-affected countries respectively. When looking only at the EU, instead of the UK, France comes in third place.
Two years working together to keep technology safe for all
Two years ago, the Coalition Against Stalkerware was founded in November 2019 by 10 organizations. Today, there are more than 40 members with experts working in different relevant areas including victim support and perpetrator work, digital rights advocacy, IT security, academia, security research and law enforcement. This year, the Coalition welcomed new supporters like INTERPOL and members including, Gendarmerie Nationale (FR), Luchadoras (MX), Refuge (UK) and The Tor Project (US). Beyond that, fulfilling one of the Coalition’s founding missions, it launched new technical training on stalkerware aimed at helping increase capacity building among non-profit organizations, working with survivors and victims, law enforcement agencies and other relevant parties to tackle this form of online abuse.
Key company’s activities during the year include:
· In October, Kaspersky teamed up with INTERPOL, NNEDV and Wesnet, to provide more than 210 police officers with knowledge to investigate digital stalking using the Coalition’s technical training as a basis for the online workshops, which was very well received by the global law enforcement community.
· Also last month, the EU wide DeStalk project – in which Kaspersky has taken a leading role – launched an e-learning course for public officials of regional authorities and workers of victim support services and perpetrator programs, on how to tackle cyberviolence and stalkerware. DeStalk is supported by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Program of the European Commission
· Today, Kaspersky will host a regional online event aimed at a UK audience to raise awareness about stalkerware. The event, featuring Refuge UK, an academic expert from University College London and an activist, will facilitate a discussion on how individuals can protect themselves. To mark the International Day to End Violence Against Violence on November 25, Kaspersky will organize another local event in Rome, Italy where regulators and domestic violence experts will come together in order to discuss the issue of digital stalking.
More information about other activities involving Coalition members can be found on the Coalition’s website.
For users who suspect they may be affected or are being impacted by stalkerware, Kaspersky has the following recommendations:
· Do not rush to remove stalkerware if found on the device as the abuser may notice. It is very important to consider that the abuser may be a potential safety risk. In some cases, the person may escalate their abusive behaviors in response.
· Contact local authorities and service organizations supporting victims of domestic violence – for assistance and safety planning. A list of relevant organizations in several countries can be found on www.stopstalkerware.org.
· Watch the Coalition’s video on stalkerware and how to protect against it on the homepage available in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. There is also a dedicated page for victims and survivors on stalkerware detection, removal and prevention.
· Use proven cybersecurity protection, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, to run a check on your device and discover if stalkerware has been installed on it. However, this should only be done after the potential risk to the victim has been assessed as the perpetrator may notice the use of a cybersecurity solution.
Kaspersky is a global cybersecurity and digital privacy company founded in 1997. Kaspersky’s deep threat intelligence and security expertise is constantly transforming into innovative security solutions and services to protect businesses, critical infrastructure, governments and consumers around the globe. The company’s comprehensive security portfolio includes leading endpoint protection and a number of specialized security solutions and services to fight sophisticated and evolving digital threats. Over 400 million users are protected by Kaspersky technologies and we help 240,000 corporate clients protect what matters most to them. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.
About Coalition Against Stalkerware
The Coalition Against Stalkerware (“CAS” or “Coalition”) is a group dedicated to addressing abuse, stalking, and harassment via the creation and use of stalkerware. Launched in November 2019 by ten founding partners – Avira, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, G DATA Cyber Defense, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, The National Network to End Domestic Violence, NortonLifeLock, Operation Safe Escape, and WEISSER RING –, the Coalition has grown into a global network of more than forty partners. It looks to bring together a diverse array of organizations working in domestic violence survivor support and perpetrator intervention, digital rights advocacy, IT security and academic research to actively address the criminal behavior perpetrated through stalkerware and raise public awareness about this important issue. Due to the high societal relevance for users all over the globe, with new variants of stalkerware emerging periodically, the Coalition Against Stalkerware is open to new partners and calls for cooperation. To find out more about the Coalition Against Stalkerware please visit the official website www.stopstalkerware.org