Domestic violence and cyberbullying: the Coalition against Stalkerware, strengthens its action all over the world
As the world gradually reconnects with the outside world, measures to contain the health crisis have confirmed the need for an international working group committed to combating domestic violence and online harassment.
The fight to protect Internet users against online harassment (via spyware or stalkerware) is reinforced with eleven new organizations joining the “Coalition against Stalkerware”: AEquitas with its center for prevention, awareness and resources on harassment (SPARC), Anonyome Labs, AppEsteem Corporation, BFF Bundesverband Frauenberatungsstellen und Frauennotrufe, Center Hubertine Auclert, Copperhead, Corrata, Commonwealth Peoples’ Association of Uganda, Cyber Peace Foundation, F-Secure and Illinois Stalking Advocacy Center.
Launched in November 2019, the coalition now has 21 members, including the founders – Avira, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the European Network for working with perpetrators of domestic violence, G DATA Cyber Defense, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, the National Network to end domestic violence, NortonLifeLock, Operation Safe Escape and WEISSER RING. The coalition’s objective is twofold: to combine the expertise of the various partner members in terms of support for victims of domestic violence, defense of digital rights and cybersecurity in order to combat crimes perpetrated using spyware and raise public awareness of the risks of online harassment.
Containment increases domestic violence
The increase in the number of organizations united to fight stalkerware has never been greater. According to a survey by the American National Network to end domestic violence (National Network to End Domestic Violence), with the introduction of containment measures following the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of incidents linked to domestic violence increased in the United States. Other coalition partners have also reported similar increases in other parts of the world, and the UN recently called on governments to be alert to the dangers of home containment. In early April, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed explained that worldwide, confinement could have serious negative consequences for women, as confinement led to an increased risk of domestic violence.. In addition to the physical damage, it is feared that many of these women will also be spied on, via mobile applications. Indeed, the use of spyware is recurrent in toxic relationships involving situations of domestic violence. And this surveillance does not stop with the pandemic, according to a BFF survey carried out at centers for assisting and listening to women victims of rape in Germany.
Unity is strength
With the aim of helping victims and informing the public about the dangers of spyware, the founding members of the coalition established a definition of cyberbullying as well as detection criteria, hitherto non-existent, to help everyone to be protect. During the first months of its existence, the coalition carried out numerous awareness-raising actions with organizations defending the rights of victims of harassment, journalists and regulatory authorities through public speeches, events, publications , research. They also collected a great deal of data on stalkers using detection tools.
“We are constantly monitoring the emergence and activity of spyware in order to stop these cyberbullying phenomena. During the month of April 2020, we detected 110 new installations of spyware in France. If this figure knows a limited decrease compared to the beginning of 2020 (253 spyware in January 2020), we can explain it by confinement, and the fact that the main interest of stalkerware for their users, is to spy on their partner’s activities and movements. However, the decrease in the possibilities of displacement leads to a decrease in the new software installed, but not a decrease in the risks for the victims … One risks seeing this figure set off again with the gradual return of the freedoms of displacement. In order to further improve the detection of this software by cybersecurity tools, we are delighted to see more organizations join the Coalition against Stalkerware and therefore to be able to share our knowledge with this group dedicated to protecting users against cyber harassment. Beyond detection, it remains essential to continue research on the links between cyberviolence, physical violence and the gendered nature of the use of spyware in order to have a better understanding of this question and especially to be able to help , at our level, victims of domestic violence. This is why we are proud to work hand in hand with victim protection organizations around the world, “said Tanguy de Coatpont, Managing Director of Kaspersky France.
For Marie-Pierre Badré, president of the Center Hubertine Auclert, “Spyware is an additional source of danger and distress for victims of domestic violence. This coalition is a real opportunity to bring together the expertise of the IT security sector and NGOs specializing in gender violence. Our international synergy will create the best protection solutions for victims. “
In order to continue to raise awareness of the issue of cyberbullying and spyware, the Coalition contre les Stalkerwares also created an explanatory video available in French. The goal ? Provide useful information to all victims to better understand and detect the presence of spyware. The video lists, among other things, the indicators used to verify whether the user has been the victim of spyware, and if so, the measures to be adopted.
The Coalition for Stalkerware Victims website is also available in six different languages and brings together the various studies and information necessary for everyone. Users can now find information about what spyware is, the risks of spyware, how to detect it, and how to protect yourself, in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. For victims, coalition members recommend immediately contacting local victim assistance organizations.
Each member of the coalition goes there on his own initiative to help victims of stalkerware. This is the case, for example, of the “National network to end domestic violence” which created an application for collecting evidence to build up a solid case: DocuSAFE, or even WEISSER RING which also launched an application of this type during the year. last, called “NO STALK”, available in German. It is important to note that these applications should not be used on devices the user suspects of intrusion via spyware.
And tomorrow ? Coalition members are working on, among other things, improving spyware detection and mitigation, developing a guide to good practice to encourage ethical software creation and the development of cyber protection capabilities for victims and the organizations that help them.
About the Coalition Against Stalkerware
The Coalition Against Stalkerware (“CAS” or “Coalition”) is a group dedicated to combating abuse, bullying and violence through the creation and use of spyware. Currently made up of local and international protection agencies for victims of domestic violence, as well as computer security companies, the Coalition seeks to bring together a wide range of organizations in order to actively fight against criminal behavior perpetrated through software. spying and raising public awareness of this central issue. Due to the societal importance of this cause worldwide, and in particular due to the periodic appearance of new variants of stalkerware, the CAS calls for cooperation and encourages organizations from around the world to get involved in this fight. . To learn more about the Coalition, visit the official website www.stopstalkerware.org.