People suffering from domestic violence and related problems bear the brunt of software that aids aggressors in their malicious intent.
A coalition to nip potentially-dangerous software has brought onboard 11 new organizations to aid in its cause.
The hazardous software in question is 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. Its new members are: 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 is now 21 partners strong, with participation in the United States, Canada, Ireland, India, Uganda, France, Germany, and Greece. They are also represented within a network of support groups spread across Switzerland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Norway, Georgia, Moldova, Italy, Austria, Cyprus, and Bosnia.
Stalkerware and relationship abuse
Global support comes at a necessary time, asserts the coalition. Since the launch of this 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 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 non-profit Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse.
Notably, lockdown efforts in the past few months have been put into force for the public’s safety—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.
For instance, in China, the non-governmental organization Equality, which works to stop violence against women, reported increased calls to its support hotline. In Spain, a similar uptick of 18% has occurred. In France, police reported a 30% surge in domestic violence across the nation.
These issues are worldwide. But support can be local.
The coalition already depends on multidisciplinary expertise to improve its understanding of and address the threat of stalkerware. It leans on domestic abuse advocates to learn about why there is no one-size-fits-all solution to these problems, and why cybersecurity vendors should not presume that all domestic abuse survivors can comfortably access the malware-scanning tools being built.
Digital rights experts can collaborate to inform the world about how stalkerware may intersect with the law and potentially violate human rights. This would galvanize the cybersecurity industry to do its part in helping people from around the world.