Authored by: David Ruiz, Malwarebytes Labs
Today, the Coalition Against Stalkerware brought aboard 11 new organizations to address the potentially dangerous capabilities of stalkerware, an invasive, digital threat that can rob individuals of their expectation of, and right to, privacy. These types of apps can provide domestic abusers with a new avenue of control over their survivors’ lives, granting wrongful, unfettered access to text messages, phone calls, emails, GPS location data, and online browsing behavior.
Founded last year, the Coalition Against Stalkerware brings together cybersecurity vendors, domestic violence organizations, and digital rights advocates.
Since its launch, Coalition members have published updated statistics on stalkerware-type apps, conducted vital research on their popularity, and informed journalists about why this subject matters. Further, the Coalition’s founding cybersecurity members—including Malwarebytes—have worked together to share intelligence to improve their products. This month, Malwarebytes also offered a remote training about mobile device security for the San Mateo-based nonprofit Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse.
Today, the Coalition grows larger and stronger. We welcome Anonyome Labs, AppEsteem Corporation, Bundesverband Frauenberatungsstellen und Frauennotrufe (bff), Centre Hubertine Auclert, Copperhead, Corrata, Commonwealth Peoples’ Association of Uganda, Cyber Peace Foundation, F-Secure, Illinois Stalking Advocacy Center, and AEquitas with its Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC).
With the new additions, the Coalition Against Stalkerware is now 21 partners strong, with participation in the United States, Canada, Ireland, India, Uganda, France, Germany, and Greece. We are also represented within a network of support groups spread across Switzerland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Norway, Georgia, Moldova, Italy, Austria, Cyprus, and Bosnia.
This global support comes at a necessary time.
In late January, the world shifted. Continuously more governments implemented shelter-in-place orders to prevent the spread of coronavirus. These efforts are for the public’s safety—attempts to slow down an illness deadlier and more contagious than the flu. But for survivors of domestic abuse, harm comes not just from the outside world—sometimes it lives at the same address.
In China, the non-governmental organization Equality, which works to stop violence against women, reported increased call volume to its support hotline. In Spain, a similar uptick of 18 percent occurred. And in France, police reported a 30 percent surge in domestic violence across the nation.
These issues are worldwide. Support can be local.
The Coalition already depends on multidisciplinary expertise to better understand and address the threat of stalkerware. We lean on domestic abuse advocates to learn about why there is no one-size-fits-all solution to these problems, and why we, as cybersecurity vendors, should not presume that all domestic abuse survivors can comfortably access the malware-scanning tools we build. We lean on digital rights experts to inform us about how these types of potentially invasive apps intersect with the law, and potentially violate our rights. And we lean on one another in the cybersecurity industry to improve our products to detect stalkerware-type apps.
With today’s additions, we’re expanding our approach to multidisciplinary expertise. We are leaning on experts who support survivors in languages we sometimes don’t speak, and who, through decades of committed work, have built immeasurable trust within their communities beyond our current reach.
We work better when we work together.