Tuesday, a group of cybersecurity companies, domestic violence charities, and digital activists formally announced a coalition to try and stop the spread of so-called stalkerware, as well as a website to help stalkerware victims. Stalkerware are apps or malware that can, among other things, steal messages, log movements, and remotely turn on a phone's camera without the owner's knowledge or consent. Often abusive partners use stalkerware to monitor their spouse.
“When designed to operate in complete stealth mode, with no persistent notification to the device owner, stalkerware can give abusers, stalkers, and other perpetrators a robust tool to perpetrate harassment, monitoring, stalking, fraud, and abuse. This type of abuse can be terrifying, traumatizing, and raises significant safety and privacy concerns. The creation of this Coalition is an exciting step forward to address this problem," Erica Olsen, director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence said in a statement.
In all, 10 organizations are part of the Coalition Against Stalkerware: 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.
Do you know about any other breaches of stalkerware companies? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on firstname.lastname@example.org, or email email@example.com.
The Coalition has also launched a website—StopStalkerware.org—which hopes to educate the public on the dangers of stalkerware, as well as develop best practices for ethical software development, and help victims, an announcement from the Coalition reads.
"It is important to consider whether removing stalkerware could potentially cause more harm, as the abuser will be informed immediately by the app, or it could erase evidence critical to a law enforcement investigation," the announcement reads. "For potentially affected users, the Coalition Against Stalkerware recommends immediately contacting a local victim service organization or law enforcement agency to help provide victim safety measures," it adds.
“Studies have shown that 70% of women victims of cyberstalking also experienced at least one form of physical and/or sexualised violence from an intimate partner. We need to stop perpetrators from using their partners’ phones for stalking and hold them accountable for their violence,” Anna McKenzie, communications manager at the European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, said in a statement.
After Motherboard revealed a hacker had repeatedly breached a stalkerware company, this month the Federal Trade Commission banned the firm from making any more monitoring apps unless it takes steps to ensure the software is only used for legitimate purposes.
Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast, CYBER.