When it comes to combating domestic abuse, it takes a village. And in the case of people who utilize software to covertly monitor their spouse, partner, or child’s digital device without their knowledge, that village is the Coalition Against Stalkerware, which Avast officially joined earlier this year.
Avast is joining the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), Operation Safe Escape, Weisser Ring other leading security software companies in the fight against digital tracking and abuse.
“NNEDV is thrilled to see how the Coalition Against Stalkerware has grown,” Erica Olsen, Safety Net project director for the National Network to end Domestic Violence (NNEDV), says in a press release about the partnership. “There is such power in companies and organizations coming together to collectively address an issue like this. These partnerships, between security companies and victim services, can create new approaches and policies to addressing technology abuse that truly have an impact.”
The timing couldn’t be better, as Avast Threat Labs has found a 55.2 increase in stalkerware — which is also sometimes called “spouseware” or “creepware” — since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The increase is likely due to the fact that stay-at-home orders give suspicious and potentially abusive people increased access to their partners’ phones.
“Stalkerware has been running rampant since the start of the pandemic and it’s on us as protectors of digital freedom to use our product for greater good,” Ondrej David, head of mobile threat research, says in the press release. “We are proud to support the industry’s initiative against this form of cybercrime, so that it is clear to a person they may be under unwanted surveillance. It is important that people know if their privacy is being invaded so they can make more informed decisions and stay safe.”
In addition to joining the coalition, Avast also announced an update to Avast Mobile Security. The app now distinguishes between stalkerware and other types of malware, so that people know if they’re being surveilled.
“If you are already in an abusive relationship – or fear it is heading that way – you could be at greater risk from stalkerware,” Avast CISO Jaya Baloo said. “An innocent visit to, say a café to meet a friend or relative, could be reported by a stalkerware app and provide the trigger for abuse. If you have reached this stage, you need help and support fast – and you should not hesitate to seek it.”
If you or someone you know is the victim of tech abuse, reach out to the following sources to get help: