The number of users that encountered at least one so-called stalkerware installation attempt surpassed 37,000 in the first eight months of 2019, which is an increase of 35 per cent when compared to the figures for the same period in 2018, a new report said on Sunday.
Stalkerware is monitoring software or spyware that is used for stalking. The term was coined when people started to widely use commercial spyware to spy on their spouses or intimate partners.
“The good news is that even though the number of users that encountered ‘stalkerware’ has increased 35 per cent globally, we have seen a drastic drop of approximately 67 per cent in India, which shows that we are moving in the right direction in progressing as a ‘Digitally Smart’ nation,” Saurabh Sharma, Senior Security Researcher (GReAT), Kaspersky (APAC), said in a statement.
The threat landscape for stalkerware has widened, as researchers at Kaspersky have discovered 380 variants of stalkerware in 2019 which is 31 per cent more than 2018.
By using the stalkerware programmes, an abuser can access their victim’s messages, photographs, social media, geolocation, and audio or camera recordings and in some cases, this can be done real-time, according to Kaspersky’s ‘The State of Stalkerware in the 2019’ report.
Unlike legitimate parental control apps, these programmes run hidden in the background, without the victim’s knowledge or consent. They are often promoted as software for spying on people’s partners.
“We have done a lot to increase the stalkerware detection capabilities of our products in the last few months, and will continue to do so alongside other industry players as we support the fight against stalkers. But there are still problems to solve.
“To find and agree on a definition of stalkerware that can be acknowledged by everybody in the industry. This would help distinguish such software better, and therefore better protect users from abusers of their privacy,” said Vladimir Kuskov, Security Expert at Kaspersky.