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Mobile Stalking on the Rise this International Women’s Day

March 2020 by Kaspersky

The thought of having your every move – physical or digital – monitored by someone is enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. Being tracked and/or threatened by someone bearing a grudge is something that most of us consider being confined to TV and film, but shocking new statistics from Kaspersky, in partnership with the Coalition Against Stalkerware, show a staggering rise in the use of stalkerware on mobile devices.

Digital technologies have made it significantly easier for people to touch our lives and stay connected wherever they are. Conversely, this technology can also put us at risk of a privacy breach, through applications like stalkerware. This commercially available spyware can be installed without the device owner’s consent and secretly stream the victim’s personal information – images, videos, correspondence, geolocation data – to a command server, which can then be used against a person. The Kaspersky analysis shows the global number of mobile users attacked by stalkerware grew by 67% worldwide in the past year, from 40,386 mobile users affected in 2018 to 67,500 in 2019. In the UK, the number of attacked users grew by 91% from 2018 to 2019.

In recognition of International Women’s Day this Sunday 8th March, Kaspersky is taking the opportunity to help protect women against this digital menace and explain how to discover stalkerware on smartphones, what preventive measures to take, and who to turn to in case of an emergency. This is a perennial issue that affects all members of society, not just women, but research shows that women are significantly more likely than men to become victims of online sexual harassment and cyber stalking, and that the impacts of these forms of violence are more traumatic for victims.

International Coalition Against Stalkerware

Along with nine other renowned companies and associations, Kaspersky launched the global Coalition Against Stalkerware at the end of 2019 to join forces against software designed for such purposes. This new, globally-active working group combines its expertise in the areas of victim assistance and cybersecurity in order to help those affected by stalkerware. As a non-commercial initiative, the project aims to bring together actors from non-profit organisations, the cybersecurity industry and other areas, such as law enforcement, under one roof.

“Together with our partners from the Coalition Against Stalkerware, we want to combine forces and our expertise to work towards putting an end to violence, especially against women, that is enabled by emerging technologies and our ever-connected lifestyles. Our goal is to ensure that all those affected receive knowledge to protect themselves against digital stalking, and the support they need if they find themselves victims,”– says Christina Jankowski, Senior External Relations Manager at Kaspersky.

Kaspersky tips to minimise risk of falling victim to stalkerware

• Block installation of programs from unknown sources in your smartphone settings to protect yourself from stalkerware and malware.
• Use a reliable password that should not be passed on to anyone else – not even if they are family members or people you trust.
• Do not store unknown files or apps on personal devices, as these could impair your own privacy.
• If your former partner had access to your personal devices, immediately change the security settings on all of them as soon as the relationship has ended.
• Review all your apps from time to time to determine if suspicious programs have been installed without your approval. Delete any apps you don’t use.
• Use a reliable security solution, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, which informs you of any attempts install spyware. Although stalkerware is legal in some countries and is not identified as malware, many security products still warn users of this type of threat, which is also known as a “not-a-virus”.

Top 5 signs of stalkerware on your smartphone

• Increased data usage
Spy apps require internet access to be able to transfer logged data. If there is an unexplainable increase in data usage, there is a possibility that your smartphone has been infected with stalkerware.
• Poor battery and slow performance
Due to the constant activity in the background, stalkerware apps consume a lot of memory, CPU and battery power. Therefore, regularly check which of your apps use your smartphone’s resources.
• Unknown apps
Pay attention to apps that you do not remember installing. There may be surveillance software installed on the device without your consent.
• Suspicious background noise
If you hear strange background noises during calls, it isn’t always a bad connection. Some stalkerware apps can record phone calls.
• People know your private information
If anyone that shouldn’t have access to your private data or accounts knows something about your recently taken photos, visited places or other personal information, they may have gained access to your data via stalkerware.

Kaspersky tips for those already affected by stalkerware
• Contact your local police, or the Coalition Against Stalkerware, in order to get help.
• Resetting your device to factory settings normally helps, but the person who installed stalkerware on your phone will be informed about it as well.
• Change all passwords for all accounts, and set up new e-mail addresses with which your accounts are linked.

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