Whether abusers are installing stalkerware casually or for malicious purposes, the world needs to eye them closely to regulate digital violence
Based on telemetry from 2022, a cybersecurity firm has revealed that 29,312 of its users worldwide had been affected by stalkerware — commercially available software that can be discretely installed on smartphone devices for spying on many aspects of victims’ private lives.
Compared to 2021’s 32,694 stalkerware victims, this shows a downward trend.
Going by the numbers, the greatest numbers of victims were recorded in Kaspersky’s users in Russia, Brazil, India, Iran, and the United States of America, out of millions of users across 176 countries. As a region, the total number of stalkerware victims in Kaspersky’s user base was 3,187 (1,807 in India, 269 in Indonesia and 190 in Australia).
How best to deal with stalkerware
Kaspersky is one of the co-founders of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, an international group dedicated to tackling and combatting domestic violence linked to digital stalking and related abuses of technology. Although the data gathered by Kaspersky is anonymized, other research has shown that this form of digital violence affects mainly women. It is important to remember that digital violence is another dimension of violence, and needs to be understood as a continuum of offline violence with real and negative effects on the victims.
According to the firm’s Senior External Relations Manager, Christina Jankowski: “Aside from raising awareness, sharing our expertise, and working with partners, Kaspersky has now updated its Privacy Alert to users if stalkerware is found on their devices, so that they will now be made aware that a perpetrator will notice if the software is removed. The reason behind this is simple: if the software is deleted it erases proof that stalkerware has been installed, and if a perpetrator loses control over a device, the situation might escalate. Our mission is to ensure that victims understand the best course of action to deliver the safest possible outcome, and reverse the trend against this form of digital violence.”
The most common stalkerware applications, in order of number of affected users, are Reptilicus or Vkurse (4,065), Cerberus (2,407), KeyLog (1,721), MobileTracker (1,633), wSpy (1,342), SpyPhone (1,211), Anlost (1,189), Track My Phones (1,137), MonitorMinor (864) and Hovermon (827).