Kaspersky Report Reveals Alarming Increase in Stalkerware Incidents Globally

Editorial Desk
By Editorial Desk 5 Min Read

The most recent publication of the Kaspersky State of Stalkerware 2023 report discloses that nearly 31,000 mobile users globally were subjected to stalkerware, which refers to clandestine surveillance software utilized by domestic abusers to monitor their victims.

However, the issue extends beyond stalkerware software alone, as 40% of surveyed individuals worldwide reported experiencing stalking or suspected being stalked.

Stalkerware typically presents itself as legitimate anti-theft or parental control applications on smartphones, tablets, and computers, yet its actual nature is markedly distinct.

Often installed without the consent and notification of the individual being tracked, these applications afford the perpetrator the means to exert control over the victim’s life. The functionalities of stalkerware vary depending on the specific application.

The State of Stalkerware report, an annual publication by Kaspersky, seeks to enhance comprehension regarding the extent of digital stalking globally.

In 2023, Kaspersky’s data revealed that 31,031 unique individuals worldwide were impacted by stalkerware, marking a 5.8% increase compared to 2022.

CountryAffected users
1Russian Federation9,890
7United States of America799

Top 10 countries most affected by stalkerware in the world in 2023

These figures indicate a reversal of the declining trend observed in 2021, underscoring that digital stalking remains a pervasive global issue.

According to the Kaspersky Security Network, users in Russia, Brazil, and India were the top three countries most affected by stalkerware in 2023.

Iran, having entered the top five the previous year, maintained its position. While there were minor changes in the top 10 affected countries compared to 2021, with Germany dropping to the tenth spot, Saudi Arabia, previously ranked eighth in 2022, did not feature prominently this year.

The data reveals a diverse spectrum of abuse, with over one-third (39%) of respondents globally reporting instances of violence or abuse from a current or former partner.

Among those surveyed, 23% disclosed experiencing some form of online stalking from a recent romantic partner. Overall, 40% of respondents reported encountering stalking or suspecting being stalked.

In addition, 12% admitted to installing or configuring settings on their partner’s phone, while 9% acknowledged pressuring their partner to install monitoring applications.

Nonetheless, the act of monitoring a partner without their knowledge is disapproved by the majority of individuals (54%), reflecting a prevalent aversion to such behavior.

In terms of attitudes towards consensually monitoring a partner’s online activities, 45% of respondents expressed disapproval, emphasizing the importance of privacy rights.

Conversely, 27% endorsed full transparency in relationships, viewing consensual monitoring as appropriate, while 12% deemed it acceptable only with mutual agreement.

The aforementioned findings underscore the delicate balance individuals navigate between intimacy and safeguarding personal information. The observed increase in caution, particularly concerning sensitive data like security device passwords, aligns with cybersecurity principles.

While the willingness to share streaming service passwords and photos signifies a cultural shift, individuals should remain cognizant of potential risks even in seemingly innocuous information sharing.

These insights emphasize the significance of fostering open communication within relationships, establishing clear boundaries, and promoting digital literacy.

For cybersecurity professionals, it reinforces the imperative of continuous education on cybersecurity best practices and empowering individuals to make informed decisions regarding sharing personal information within relationships, as articulated by David Emm, a security and data privacy expert at Kaspersky.

The battle against stalkerware necessitates collaborative efforts. While the use of stalkerware software is not currently prohibited in most countries, installing such applications on another individual’s smartphone without their consent is illegal and punishable.

It is crucial to note that the responsibility lies with the perpetrator rather than the application developer. Stalkerware, alongside other related technologies, constitutes a facet of tech-enabled abuse frequently observed in abusive relationships.

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