In 2022, nearly 30,000 mobile users globally were targeted by stalkerware - secret surveillance software used by domestic-abusers to track victims - according to the latest Kaspersky State of Stalkerware report.
The annual report reveals that 29,312 unique individuals globally were affected by stalkerware in 2022, representing only a slight drop on the 32,694 users affected in 2021. In Europe, the total number of users affected in 2022 was 3,158, with the three most affected countries being Germany (737), Italy (405) and France (365). The United Kingdom is fourth in the list with 313.
“Stalkerware is commercially available software that can be discretely installed on smartphones, enabling perpetrators to watch every step of an individual’s private life. As the perpetrator requires physical access to a device, it is often used in abusive relationships, with research showing it is mainly women who are affected by this form of digital violence,” explains Christina Jankowski, Senior Manager at Kaspersky. “Our data reveals that there are thousands of victims of stalkerware every year. Given its clear link to violence, this is an extremely worrying trend which must be addressed.”
Following a sustained downward trend in the two years prior to 2021 which could be explained by the unique circumstances created during lockdown, the relative stability in numbers between 2021-2022 highlights the global scale of digital stalking and suggests that the problem is not going away on its own.
The report finds that Russia (8281), Brazil (4969), India (1807), Iran (1754), and the United States of America (1295) are the top five countries in the world most affected by stalkerware (numbers in brackets). Overall, Kaspersky detected stalkerware cases in 176 countries around the world, proving that digital stalking continues to be a global phenomenon affecting all countries.
Globally, the most commonly used stalkerware application discovered on smartphone devices was Reptilicus (4,065 affected users), followed by Cerberus (2,407), and KeyLog (1,721). In 2022, Kaspersky detected a total of 182 different stalkerware apps.
Digital violence and the need to act on it
Dr Leonie Maria Tanczer, Associate Professor at University College London (UCL) and head of UCL’s Gender and Tech Research Group points to the relevance of Kaspersky’s research: “It’s critical to have data on stalkerware available because quantitative evidence on the scale and nature of technology-enabled forms of coercion and control remains limited. Whilst the report only offers insights on mobile users using Kaspersky’s IT security solutions, we can anticipate that the full extent of stalkerware usage is much bigger. These are consequently worrying but useful figures that can help provide incentives for research, industry, and practice to speed up the development of both legal and technical mitigation strategies that increase not only the detection but also the deployment of surveillance software.”
Kaspersky is working with experts and organizations in the field of domestic violence, ranging from victim support services and perpetrator programs through to research and government agencies, to share knowledge and support both professionals and victims. The company is a co-founder of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, an international group dedicated to tackling stalkerware and combating domestic violence.
Read the full State of Stalkerware report on Securelist.