Massive increase in use of stalkerware to monitor partner or one's own child
Several thousand people monitored their child, (ex-)partner or other people with the so-called stalkerware last year, reported the consumer program Kassa. However, for many this represents a massive invasion of privacy, as it gives the software users full access to the phone of people from their own household as well as outside. Most often, the monitoring program is passed off to users as parental control software. This additionally poses a great threat to the child's safety.
This could be outlined by the four largest security companies in the country, such as Bitdefender, Avast, Eset, and Kaspersky. This is because almost all security companies have been able to record increasing stalkerware detections in recent years. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of stalkerware usage peaked.
Bitdefender, for example, detected 2657 infected devices, a 260 percent increase over 2021. Avast even saw the number of detections double compared to 2021, and Eset was also able to mark an increase of 6.5 last year. Only at Kaspersky did the number of detections remain more or less the same, the NPO 2 consumer programme reported. But the unreported number of stalkerware detections is even higher, as most users do not have a virus scanner installed on their smartphone.
According to the domestic violence cybersecurity expert SafetyNed, more and more people are using trackers in addition to stalkerware to keep tabs on their (ex-)partner. As a result, the organization calls for protections to ensure that victims of domestic violence do not unknowingly have such tracker software on their smartphones or carry a tracker with them. This is because it would make it easy for the perpetrator to track down the victims later on.
Tracker providers like Apple, which sells the celebrated Airtag, have put measures in place to combat stalking. However, investigations by Kassa, along with ethical hacker Chantal Stekelenburg of Zerocopter, has found that these Airtags do not work. "It's true that the Airtag includes an alarm that goes off when it's with an unknown owner who has an iPhone. But the alarm doesn't go off on someone with an Android device without an app to detect the Airtag," Stekelenburg told the NPO 2 consumer program. Furthermore, the Zerocopter hacker stressed that there are videos on YouTube with instructions on how to turn off the alarm, and there are still many Airtags available without such an alarm.