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Kaspersky and the Coalition Against Stalkerware launch new technical training

Today Kaspersky announced a new technical training it co-created with the Coalition Against Stalkerware. The program is designed to help increase capacity building among non-profit organizations that work with survivors and victims, law enforcement agencies and other relevant parties to tackle this form of online abuse.

Stalkerware is a commercially available software used for cyberstalking, typically installed on an intimate partner or ex-partner's phone. To raise awareness on this form of digital abuse and train experts working with such victims, Kaspersky and nine other organizations co-founded the Coalition Against Stalkerware in November 2019. It has grown into a global network of more than 40 partner organizations from around the globe, working in domestic violence survivor support and perpetrator intervention, digital rights advocacy, IT security, and academic research.

Training for a wide range of experts

The training aims to fill a skills gap, since professionals need tailored resources in order to tackle this form of cyberstalking. The Coalition's basic technical training covers the most relevant questions on stalkerware for practitioners working with victims of violence, including: what is stalkerware? What are the methods of installing it? How can you detect and protect against it?

Consisting of a slide deck and video presentation, the training was developed by Kaspersky experts and Martijn Grooten, a coordinator of the Coalition, with input and feedback from other members. The content this is currently only available in English, but future translated versions are planned to facilitate capacity building across the world. The Coalition also plans to offer training to professionals in other industries, including law enforcement, judiciary and tech business.

"The use of stalkerware by perpetrators of intimate partner violence can be terrifying for survivors, given the breadth of personal information abusers can access through this technology," said Deborah J. Vagins, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "Because privacy can be the key to safety for survivors, addressing their concerns around surveillance and monitoring is critical. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) works to increase awareness about this type of abuse and support for survivors who are concerned about it."

"Kaspersky has been researching the topic of stalkerware for years, and we have a lot of technical expertise, which can help protect people," said Christina Jankowski, senior external relations manager, Kaspersky. "Working on this course together with our partners was a unique experience - colleagues from cybersecurity companies complemented it with their expertise, making it a true cyclopedia on the topic, while professionals from service providers gave tons of amazing insights on how to better deliver this tech information. Now, our experts look forward to continuing their work with organizations that are in direct contact with victims of stalkerware and delivering the Coalition's training to our partners."

At the beginning, members will run a pilot phase to deliver the basic technical training to its existing partners. In the future, the Coalition envisions providing the training to all interested parties upon request.

"Online violence is just another form of gender-based violence," said Alessandra Pauncz, executive director at the European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, which is also a co-founding member of the Coalition Against Stalkerware. "We need to stay ahead of the game and provide training for service providers."

Cyberstalking is a growing issue

Coalition members reported a significant growth of stalkerware incidents in recent years, statistics confirmed by domestic violence organizations as well as from an IT security detection standpoint:

  • According to the Centre Hubertine Auclert (2018) in France, 21% of victims have experienced stalkerware at the hands of their abusive partner, and 69% of victims have the feeling that the personal information on their smartphone has been accessed by their partner in a hidden way.
  • Research with frontline family violence workers by Australia's peak domestic violence network, Wesnet, found that the tracking and monitoring of women by perpetrators had risen 244% between 2015 and 2020, and stalking, often via technological means, is the most common form of abuse, happening alongside domestic and family violence.

Kaspersky detected that almost 54,000 of its mobile users were affected globally by stalkerware in 2020.

For users who suspect they may be affected or are being impacted by stalkerware, Kaspersky has the following recommendations:

  • Contact local authorities and service organizations supporting victims of domestic violence - for assistance and safety planning. A list of relevant organizations in several countries can be found on www.stopstalkerware.org.
  • Watch the Coalition's video on stalkerware and how to protect against it; available in English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. There is also a dedicated page for victims and survivors on stalkerware detection, removal and prevention.
  • Use proven cybersecurity protection, such as Kaspersky Internet Security for Android, to run a check on your device and discover if stalkerware has been installed on it. Do not rush to remove stalkerware if it's discovered, since the abuser may notice. It is very important to consider that the abuser may be a safety risk. In some cases, the person may escalate their abusive behaviors in response.
Published Thursday, July 15, 2021 9:41 AM by David Marshall
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