The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) is set to enhance the ability of the global law enforcement community by allowing them to investigate the use of stalkerware, and support victims who require assistance.

Monitoring someone through their phone or computer is a form of violence and causes considerable fear for victims. As such, ‘stalkerware’ – commercial software that allows perpetrators to secretly monitor others through their devices – has become a real and rapidly evolving threat, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Domestic violence has intensified since the outbreak of the pandemic, with the United Nations calling violence against women during Covid-19, a “shadow pandemic”.

Partners of the Coalition Against Stalkerware across the world, who work with survivors, also reported a stark increase in domestic violence and tech abuse incidents in 2020.

In addition, Kaspersky detected that almost 54 000 of their mobile users were affected globally by stalkerware in 2020. Russia, Brazil, the US, India and Mexico topped the list of countries where users were most impacted.

Global, collective action

Fighting against the multifaceted issue of stalkerware requires global and collective action from cybersecurity vendors, non-governmental organisations, law enforcement, and academia.

For this reason, 10 key actors in the global cybersecurity ecosystem – including Kaspersky – have come together and created the Coalition Against Stalkerware, a global initiative to provide support to survivors of domestic violence, to combat the use of stalkerware, and to work towards increasing public awareness around this issue.

Since its inception, the coalition has grown to more than 35 members around the world, gaining strong momentum in helping to combat and educate against these threats.

The coalition’s partners work to drive real outcomes through their collaboration, including: improving technical detection of stalkerware; developing a stalkerware sample and a metadata information sharing mechanism; and providing a series of informational and technical assistance seminars to support organisations working with survivors of domestic violence, and other individuals targeted by stalkerware.

“We understand that all key partners must join together to fight against this pervasive tactic of abuse. Given that law enforcement should be able to identify and respond to the threats posed by stalkerware, it’s great to see that Interpol is devoted to working with their global community around the topic of intimate partner violence, unwanted surveillance, and abuse,” says Tara Hairston, official representative of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, and head of public affairs: North America at Kaspersky. “Alongside Interpol and our other partners, we will work to ensure nobody has to fall victim to stalkerware again.”

Interpol will promote training sessions developed by the Coalition to its 194 member countries, to enhance the ability to investigate the use of stalkerware, support victims requesting assistance, and hold perpetrators accountable.

“Interpol is committed to supporting the Coalition Against Stalkerware in its fight against abuse, stalking, and harassment via the use of stalkerware,” says Craig Jones, Interpol’s director of Cybercrime. “To this end, we will continue to raise awareness within the global law enforcement community about intimate partner violence, unwanted surveillance, and abuse.”

The founding members of the Coalition include Avira, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence, G Data CyberDefense, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, the U.S. National Network to End Domestic Violence, NortonLifeLock, Operation Safe Escape, and Weisser Ring.