December 26th sees the start of the second season of “You – You’ll love me” on Netflix. The focus: bookseller Joe Goldberg, who develops an excessive obsession with his customer Guinevere Beck, stalks her in every conceivable way and even kills her in the end. What would be a nightmare in reality, made the hearts of some women beat faster in the first season.
However, stalking is a serious problem that is increasingly spreading digitally. So-called stalkerware programs – espionage software secretly installed on a victim’s smartphone – allow third parties to invade another person’s private life. Stalkerware can officially be purchased and its use is increasing: according to Kaspersky analyses, in the period from January to August 2019 there was an increase of 79 percent in attempted installations of stalkerware in Germany.
David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky, comments on the ascending danger:
“Stalkerware is more widespread than one might think; it runs in the background without the affected person noticing anything about it. After successful installation, the perpetrator can access news, photos, social media, geolocalization data, and audio or camera recordings – in some cases even in real time. What captivates with an attractive actor in the guise of an exciting TV series is a serious problem in real life and a real threat for many women, but also men. For this reason, we have recently started cooperating with numerous partners as part of the “Coalition Against Stalkerware” initiative to draw attention to the dangers of stalkerware and to help those affected.”
Coalition against Stalkerware takes up work
In addition to Kaspersky, nine other renowned companies and associations, including Avira, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, G DATA CyberDefense, Malwarebytes, National Network to End Domestic Violence, NortonLifeLock, Operation Safe Escape and Weißer Ring, have joined the initiative for protection against espionage software “Coalition Against Stalkerware“. This new, globally active working group will bundle its expertise in the areas of victim support and cyber security to provide the best possible help to users affected by stalkerware.
Kaspersky: How to protect yourself against stalkerware
- Block the installation of programs from unknown sources in the setting of the smartphone. This can be done via the device settings.
- Never pass on the password or passcode of your smartphone to third parties, even if they are trusted third parties.
- Never store unknown files or applications on the device as they could compromise privacy.
- Immediately change all security settings on all devices once a relationship has ended. Ex-partners may try to steal personal information to manipulate the owners.
- Check all applications used on the device to determine if suspicious programs have been installed without permission.
- Use a reliable security solution, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which immediately notifies users when commercial spyware programs are attempted to be installed.
- Those affected by stalking or seeking help in this regard should contact relevant organisations for professional support.