A number of organisations that work against domestic violence have joined forces with IT security companies in a bid to launch a new global initiative, Coalition Against Stalkerware.
Ten organisations including Avira, Electronic Frontier Foundation, European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, G DATA Cyber Defense, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, National Network to End Domestic Violence, NortonLifeLock, Operation Safe Escape and Weisser Ring - have launched the global coalition.
Stalkerware programs carry the possibility for intrusion into a person’s private life and are increasingly being used as a tool for abuse in cases of domestic violence and stalking.
According to a study from Kaspersky, the number of users facing stalkerware rose globally by 35 per cent from 2018 to 2019, with non-profit organisations experiencing a growing number of victims seeking help from the problem.
Until now, there was neither an agreed-upon definition for stalkerware nor detection criteria which made communication around the issue particularly difficult.
As such, the coalition has been formed to take the important step of creating a proper definition and reaching a consensus on detection criteria.
Malwarebytes Labs online privacy writer, David Ruiz, said in order to counter this issue, it’s important for cybersecurity vendors and advocacy organisations to work together.
"For years, Malwarebytes has detected and warned users about the potentially dangerous capabilities of stalkerware, an invasive threat that can rob individuals of their expectation of, and right to privacy. Just like the abuse it can enable, stalkerware also proliferates away from public view, leaving its victims and survivors in isolation, unheard and unhelped.
"Forming and fighting together with the coalition against stalkerware is the next, necessary step in stopping this digital threat - a collaborative approach steered by the promise of enabling the safe use of technology for everyone, everywhere."
Additionally, the coalition has also launched an online portal, www.stopstalkerware.org, with the goal of helping victims, facilitating knowledge transfer among members, developing best practice for ethical software development and educating the public about the dangers of stalkerware.
Avira protection labs director, Alexander Vukcevic, said monitoring software has evolved rapidly in past years. Powerful surveillance functions have been added and the purpose of the tracking activity has fundamentally changed.
“The continuous surge in mobile device usage combined with a lack of legislative mitigation is giving people accessible tools to spy on spouses, family members or friends.
“Avira recognises that this is a new threat category and invites IT security companies and organisations working against domestic violence to join forces, share information and work together to stop these privacy violations.”
Meanwhile, Electronic Frontier Foundation director of cybersecurity, Eva Galperin said the ubiquity of stalkerware is a complex problem and stakeholders are needed from all parts of society in order to fight it effectively.
“Stalkerware, used for spying on phones and computers in domestic abuse or harassment situations, is a very serious problem, and it often goes hand-in-hand with other forms of abuse, up to and including physical violence.”
Kaspersky head of anti-malware research, Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky, said it’s important for cybersecurity vendors and advocacy organisations to work together in order to counter the issue.
“The IT security industry gives its input by improving detection of stalkerware and better notifying users of this threat to their privacy.
“Meanwhile service and advocacy organisations directly work with victims of domestic violence, know their pain points and requests, and can guide our work. So acting together, shoulder to shoulder, we will be capable of assisting survivors through technical expertise and capacity building.”
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.