The fourth season of popular Netflix series, You, starts, with viewers tuning in once again to follow the exploits of Joe Goldberg, an obsessive young man going to extreme lengths to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by. Although Joe has made viewers’ hearts beat faster since the show first aired in 2018, the romanticisation of his behaviour raises serious issues about the unacceptable problem of stalking – both online and offline – in our society.
A common form of digital stalking is so-called stalkerware, a commercially available software that can be discretely installed on smartphone devices. Along with other technologies, stalkerware is often used in abusive relationships, enabling perpetrators to monitor an individual’s private life without their knowledge. Stalkerware has also been connected to other forms of violent behaviour.
Stalkerware figures: 2022
According to Kaspersky, 29,312 people worldwide were affected by stalkerware in 2022. United Kingdom is in the top 10 list of the most affected countries. Cases in all countries show that stalkerware is a global phenomenon that is currently affecting all societies, with the Coalition Against Stalkerware estimating that the use of this form of software worldwide could be close to one million cases annually.
“It is important that we do not romanticise the behaviour as seen in You, but instead denounce it for what it is: stalking. Regardless of whether it is happening online or digitally stalking and stalkerware is a form of violence,” says Christina Jankowski, Senior External Relations Manager at Kaspersky. “There are real life stories behind the numbers of those affected which is why it is important to take active action against it. To gain a better understanding of stalkerware, Kaspersky is sharing insights with the global cyber community and aiding organisations in the fight against digital stalking. All relevant data and information on this issue must be shared for the benefit of those affected by cyber violence to further improve the level of detection and protection.”
“Stalking is a criminal, traumatic, and dangerous offence. Yet movies, TV, and music consistently present stalking as desirable, cute, sexy, and/or flattering – but in real life, it’s unwanted, terrifying, and illegal,” comments Karen Bentley, CEO at WESNET. “As peak body for Specialist Women's Domestic and Family Violence Services in Australia we work with many victim support organizations where survivors come to seek help with this problem. Hence, it’s so important to build the capacity of these organizations and educate the public that this type of behaviour is unacceptable. To that end, we are pleased to be working with Kaspersky and all of the partners from the Coalition Against Stalkerware.”
Practical Help: Coalition Against Stalkerware and TinyCheck
In 2019, Kaspersky alongside nine other companies and organisations founded the Coalition Against Stalkerware, which today counts more than 40 members worldwide. The Coalition’s mission is to improve the detection of stalkerware, combat domestic violence, promote knowledge sharing among non-profit organisations and companies, and raise public awareness about the problem.
Kaspersky's consumer security solutions protect against stalkerware, regularly scanning devices and displaying suitably clear warnings, including recommended actions, if detected.
Furthermore, Kaspersky has developed the free open-source tool, TinyCheck, which enables the detection of stalkerware in a simple, fast and non-invasive way on an affected device without alerting the perpetrator. TinyCheck is secure in its use by help organisations and it does not read the contents of an individual’s communications (such as SMS or emails). Itonly interacts with the online servers/IPs connected to the smart device. TinyCheck does not know who an individual is communicating with or what is being said, and the network record of the analysed device is not shared with neither Kaspersky nor third parties receive this data. All analysis is carried out locally.
Kaspersky recommendations for those affected by stalkerware
Kaspersky recommendations for protection against stalkerware on mobile devices