Growing technological innovation has helped to solve many daily challenges and problems for consumers. But when cutting-edge technology falls into the wrong hands, it can cause consequences, from financial damage to loss of life. The presence of consumer surveillance technology or ‘stalkerware’ on a device is a significant issue. It can easily go unnoticed until it is too late.
Stalkerware is developed as one of legal types of spyware used to spy on children, colleagues or relatives. Often promoted as parental control tools or family tracker, however, these apps can have a much broader scope of application. Stalkerware is installed without the device owner’s consent, to secretly stream the victim’s personal information – including images, videos, correspondence, and geolocation data – to a command server.
This carries the danger of personal information being misused by third parties, such as the app owners. Almost all stalkerware is designed to monitor victims’ actions, including keyboard activity, making it extremely effective in stealing information which the user is typing online, via keylogging tactics.
For some years, the problem of ‘stalkerware’ has been on the rise. Non-profit organizations are experiencing a growing number of victims seeking help with the problem. In 2019, Kaspersky products detected 222,434 installations of stalkerware on users of Windows devices, with the top three most affected countries being Russia (40,912), India (18,549) and Germany (15,217). It is a global issue with growing consequences.
Kaspersky found 1,196 of users in Thailand encountered stalkerware in 2019. This puts Thailand in 38th ranking worldwide for highest numbers of users affected stalkerware.
Top 10 countries, which encountered stalkerware in 2019
The low cost and ease with which it can stay hidden on a victim’s device makes it an affordable way of monitoring someone’s movements. Providing access to information such as a user’s location, browser history, text messages, social media chats, and more, spyware can be extremely damaging for the often-unwitting victim.
“March is the month we dedicate for all the empowered women around the world. Our latest data, I hope, will shed light to the current online threats targeting women and further kick-off legal and precautionary steps to protect them against this danger. Let’s do more to protect the mothers, the wives, the daughters, and the independent ladies out there against virtual stalkers. For our part, we have partnered with nine key organisations last year to launch a coalition against stalkerware. Aside from this, our corporate doors are open for all genders as we believe that diversity produces a dynamic and more productive professional environment,” says Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager of Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.
To support the prevention and help victims against stalkerware, a global working group called the Coalition Against Stalkerware was established last year, and Kaspersky is one of the founding partners. The group combines wide range of expertise from non-profit organizations, cybersecurity industry and other areas such as law enforcement, and provides knowledge, best practices for ethical software development, as well as public education on the dangers of stalkerware via its portal www.stopstalkerware.org
“Despite the potential impact that stalkerware can have on data privacy, stalkerware can be used and lead to crime. In general, stalking victims are women. The persons involved may be married or divorced or may have been engaged in some kind of relationship. In other cases the stalker and the victim may know one another casually or be associated in an informal or formal way. I strongly recommend everyone to acknowledge stalking as a crimimal activity. Raise your hand if you need help. Raise your voice if you are abused. Please contact local relevant organization or law enforcement as soon as possible,” comments Ms. Benjamas Chuthapiphat, Country Manager for Thailand at Kaspersky.
To avoid being monitored by stalkers, Kaspersky recommends:
• Blocking the installation of programs from unknown sources in your smartphone’s settings
• Never disclosing the password or passcode to your mobile device, even if it is with someone you trust
• Never storing unfamiliar files or applications on your device, as they could harm your privacy
• Changing all security settings on your mobile device if you are leaving a relationship. An ex may try to acquire your personal information in order to manipulate you
• Checking the list of applications on the device to find out if suspicious programs were installed without your consent
• Using a reliable security solution that notifies you about the presence of commercial spyware programs aimed at invading your privacy on your phone, such as Kaspersky Internet Security
• If you think you are a subject of stalking and need help, contact a relevant organization for professional help.