During quarantine, stalkerware usage increased by 51%

Quarantine increased stalkerware usage
Written by Emma Davis

Avast analysts warn that during the quarantine period, from March to June 2020, the use of spyware and stalkerware (including those that are installed seamlessly from the user) in the world increased by 51% compared to January-February 2020.

Let me remind you that the term stalkerware usually refers to commercial spyware, which is positioned as legal. With it, you can access personal data stored on smartphones and tablets of other users. Spyware allows you to intercept emails, text messages and messages in instant messengers, as well as listen to phone calls and make hidden recordings of conversations.

Stalkerware often masks itself as parental control applications, employee monitoring software, and even remote access tools for the corporate sector. Such software, as a rule, is used for secret surveillance on people, for example by initiators of domestic violence, and therefore often carries serious risks for those on whose devices it is installed.

The Avast Threat Labs team has identified an increase in this online threat amid growing physical violence in families during quarantine. The executive director of UN Women, Fumzile Mlambo-Ngkuka, has even called what is happening a “shadow epidemic” of coronavirus.

Stalkerware is a growing category of malware that has disturbing, dangerous consequences,” — said Jaya Balu, Avast IT Director. – While spyware and infostillers seek to steal personal information, spyware steals the victim’s freedom, both physically and online. As a rule, such programs are secretly installed on smartphones by jealous spouses, former partners, interested parents, sometimes even friends –– the pursuing program monitors the victim’s physical location; sites that the victim visited on the Internet; messages and phone calls, undermining personal human rights to freedom, including online. We highlighted that there has been an increase in the number of cases of domestic violence in families around the world during the quarantine period. We see a similar situation in the digital world.”

It is noteworthy that among the entire spectrum of stalker software, Avast also found a number of applications with the theme COVID-19, which were designed to spy on users. They collected more information than was required for their actual functioning.

I also recall that Qatar obliged citizens to install “spyware” for containing COVID-19 pandemic.

Quarantine increased stalkerware usage

The number of devices worldwide spyware attacked in 2020.

Also this week it became known that stalkerware is alarming not only among information security professionals. Google said that updating of the Google Ads rules after August 11 this year would cause outbreak spyware ads that can be used to track other people without their consent.

Thus, advertisers will no longer be able to promote the following products through Google Ads:

  • spyware and technology for tracking partners, including but not limited to stalkerware/malware, which can be used to track text messages, phone calls, and browser history;
  • GPS trackers designed to spy and spy on anyone without their consent;
  • advertising equipment for surveillance (cameras, sound recorders, video recorders, video nannies) intended for espionage.

The ban will not affect products intended for parents who need to track or control their minor children.

By the way, we recently wrote that antiviruses began to detect stalkerware better.

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About the author

Emma Davis

I'm writer and content manager (a short time ago completed a bachelor degree in Marketing from the Gustavus Adolphus College). For now, I have a deep drive to study cyber security.

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