India was one of the top five countries that were most targeted by stalkerware, a type of spyware, in 2020, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky said in its new report.
A total of 4,627 mobile users in India, the fourth most impacted nation, were targeted by stalkerware out of the 53,870 users who were hit globally, the ‘State of Stalkerware 2020’ report said. Russia with 12,389 users was the most impacted country, followed by Brazil (6,523) and US (4,745). Mexico with 1,570 cases was the fifth most impacted country.
Stalkerware is a form of malicious app which is typically installed by a person, close to the victim, to secretly monitor their phone activities. Once the stalkerware is installed, the perpetrator can read messages, see photos, listen to calls and track geolocation without the knowledge of the victim.
Most of these apps either operate under fake names or run in invisible mode (won’t show in the app drawer like other apps) to avoid detection. Stalkerware apps can be easily found online or on third party Android stores.
“We see the number of users affected by stalkerware has remained high and we detect new samples every day,” Victor Chebyshev, research development team lead, Kaspersky said in a statement.
Kaspersky is one of the founding members of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, which includes 30 global non-profit organisations and cybersecurity companies. Founded in 2019, the coalition’s objective is to pool resources and knowledge to improve detection of stalkerware and raise public awareness.
“The member organizations in the Coalition Against Stalkerware have made tremendous strides in the last year, including awareness-raising, detection of stalkerware, and research into the daily lives of survivors of domestic abuse,” Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a statement on the first anniversary of the coalition. EFF was one of the other founding members of the coalition.
According to cybersecurity firm Avast, since the initial surge of stalkerware during the first wave of the pandemic, the number of attacks has remained high globally throughout 2020. Security experts at Avast see this trend to continuing in 2021, but are not expecting a new surge.