Coalition Against Stalkerware celebrates its second anniversary as the demand for digital abuse support rises

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.

According to Kaspersky’s Digital Stalking in Relationships report, conducted online by Sapio Research in September 2021, online monitoring can be another way of exerting coercive control in intimate relationships. While the majority of global 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%).

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. Because of this, sadly, it’s unsurprising that it may serve as another tool in abusive relationships. Global survey data shows that 15% of respondents 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.

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).

Partners advising on the research were domestic violence experts from other member organisations of the Coalition Against Stalkerware: Australia’s national umbrella organisation for domestic violence services, Wesnet; the women’s rights organisation 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.

Global detection figures and geography of affected users

Following the Coalition Against Stalkerware’s detection criteria on stalkerware, Kaspersky analysed 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

The Coalition Against Stalkerware was founded in November 2019 by 10 organisations. 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 organisations, working with survivors and victims, law enforcement agencies and other relevant parties to tackle this form of online abuse.

Key company 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.
  • 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

More information about other activities involving Coalition members can be found on the Coalition’s website.

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