Kaspersky report reveals increase in the number of users affected by stalkerware

Kaspersky report reveals increase in the number of users affected by stalkerware
Kaspersky report reveals increase in the number of users affected by stalkerware

A report reveals almost 31,000 mobile users worldwide were subjected to stalkerware.

Country Affected users
1 Russian Federation 9,890
2 Brazil 4,186
3 India 2,492
4 Iran 1,578
5 Turkey 1,063
6 Indonesia 871
7 United States of America 799
8 Yemen 624
9 Mexico 592
10 Germany 577


Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in the world in 2023

Stalking and violence – offline and online

The spectrum of abuse is diverse, with over one-third (39%) of respondents worldwide reporting experiences of violence or abuse from a current or previous partner. Of those questioned for the report, 23% of people worldwide revealed they have encountered some form of online stalking from someone they were recently dating. Furthermore, overall, 40% reported experiencing stalking or suspecting being stalked.

On the other side, 12% admitted to installing or setting parameters on their partner’s phone, while 9% acknowledged pressuring their partner to install monitoring apps. Nevertheless, the notion of monitoring a partner without their awareness is disapproved by the majority of individuals (54%), reflecting a prevailing sentiment against such behaviour. Regarding attitudes toward consensually monitoring a partner’s online activities, 45% of respondents express disapproval, highlighting the significance of privacy rights. Conversely, 27% support full transparency in relationships, viewing consensual monitoring as appropriate, while 12% deem it acceptable only when mutual agreement is reached.

“These findings highlight the delicate balance individuals strike between intimacy and safeguarding personal information. It’s positive to observe increased caution, especially regarding sensitive data like security device passwords. The reluctance to share such critical access aligns with cybersecurity principles. The willingness to share streaming service passwords and photos signifies a cultural shift, though individuals should recognize potential risks even in seemingly innocuous information sharing. These insights underscore the importance of fostering open communication within relationships, establishing clear boundaries, and promoting digital literacy. For security professionals, it reinforces the need for ongoing education on cybersecurity best practices and empowers individuals to make informed decisions about sharing personal information within relationships,” said David Emm, security and data privacy expert at Kaspersky.

The fight against stalkerware needs partnerships

In most countries around the world, the use of stalkerware software is currently not prohibited, but installing such an application on another individual’s smartphone without their consent is illegal and punishable. However, it is the perpetrator who will be held responsible, not the developer of the application. Along with other related technologies, stalkerware is one element of tech-enabled abuse and is often used in abusive relationships.

Erica Olsen, Senior Director, Safety Net Project, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) (the United States), commented on the report: “This report highlights both the prevalence of stalking behavior perpetrated with technology and the related perceptions on privacy within intimate partner relationships. A significant portion of respondents reported they would willingly share some information, whether for safety reasons or otherwise. A small percentage, 4%, stated they reluctantly agreed to monitoring at their partner’s insistence—this is not the same as consent. It’s important to create a clear distinction between consensual sharing and non-consensual monitoring. Consent is an agreement free of force or coercion.”

Emma Pickering, Head of Technology-Facilitated Abuse and Economic Empowerment Team at Refuge (the United Kingdom), said: “The statistics highlighted in this report are really concerning, but we are sadly not surprised. Here at Refuge, we are seeing an alarming increase in survivors reporting concerns relating to stalkerware. It is also very important to note that we rarely see any form of tech abuse used in isolation. Alongside stalkerware, abusers are often misusing other forms of technology to cause harm and distress. This is why we should always ensure, as agencies, that we are completing a detailed tech assessment and supporting survivors to regain access to all accounts and devices. For this reason, it is imperative that we continue to work together with the wider tech community to understand the technology being used, to try to prevent it from being used for harm, and to try and build in safety by design collaboratively.”

Stalkerware is foremost not a technical problem but an expression of a problem that requires action from all sections of society. Kaspersky is not only actively committed to protecting users from this threat but also maintaining a multilevel dialogue with non-profit organizations, industry, research, and public agencies around the world to work together on solutions that tackle the issue.

In 2019, Kaspersky was the first cybersecurity company in the industry to develop a new attention-grabbing alert that clearly notifies users if stalkerware is found on their device. While Kaspersky’s solutions have been flagging potentially harmful apps that are not malware, including stalkerware, for many years, the new notifications function alerts the user to the fact that an app has been found on their device that may be able to spy on them.

As this is part of a wider problem, Kaspersky is working with relevant experts and organizations in the field of domestic violence, ranging from victim support services and perpetrator programs through to research and government agencies, to share knowledge and support professionals and victims alike.

In 2019, Kaspersky also co-founded the Coalition Against Stalkerware, an international working group against stalkerware and domestic violence that brings together private IT companies, NGOs, research institutions, and law enforcement agencies working to combat cyberstalking and help victims of online abuse. Through a consortium of more than 40 organizations, stakeholders can share expertise and work together to solve the problem of online violence. In addition, the Coalition’s website, which is available in seven languages, provides victims with help and guidance in case they suspect stalkerware is present on their devices.

Read the full report looking into stalkerware threats in 2023 on https://securelist.com/state-of-stalkerware-2023/112135/

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