Press releases

Avast Joins Coalition Against Stalkerware

Membership and improvements to identifying stalkerware through mobile security products reflects commitment to working with industry partners to end tech abuse


Prague, Czech Republic and Redwood City, California February 8, 2021 – Avast (LSE:AVST), a global leader in digital security and privacy products, today announced that it has joined the Coalition Against Stalkerware, a group of cybersecurity vendors, victim services, and academic researchers working to combat tech abuse. Avast has also announced that it has added functionality to its mobile antivirus product that will alert users with a customized detection notification for apps known to be stalkerware.

Stalkerware, sometimes also referred to as ‘spouseware’ or ‘creepware’, is a type of malware that gives remote access to monitor the personal devices of a significant other such as a partner, spouse, child, family member or acquaintance without their consent or knowledge. This usually includes access to all accounts and information on the phone, such as email, texts, photos, and social media sites; it can also include accessing the phone’s camera and microphone.

Unfortunately, stalkerware installs increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Avast Threat Labs reports a 55.2 percent increase globally in spyware and stalkerware from March through December 2020, in comparison to the first two months of 2020. Analysts note that stalkerware has been accelerated further by shelter-in-place restrictions as partners now have access to each others’ phones more readily when their regular movements are curtailed.

Since August 2020, Avast Mobile Security automatically provides a specific notification on the device if stalkerware is detected on their phone, distinguishing it from other malware so potential victims can be aware they may be being surveilled.

“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 the greater good,” said Ondrej David, head of mobile threat research. “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.”  

The Coalition Against Stalkerware, founded in November 2019, works to combat the use of surveillance software to track a person without their knowledge or consent and offers actionable help to victims of tech abuse. The coalition allows leading security technology companies and aid organizations to exchange insights into the problem and drive educational activities.

Avast is proud to join founding members such as Electronic Frontier Foundation, Network to End Domestic Violence, Operation Safe Escape, Weisser Ring and other leading security software companies in the coalition. 

“NNEDV is thrilled to see how the Coalition Against Stalkerware has grown,” said Erica Olsen, Safety Net project director for the National Network to end Domestic Violence (NNEDV). “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.” 

If you or someone you know is the victim of tech abuse, reach out to the following sources to get help:

WomensLaw.org 

WomensLaw – Cyberstalking

The U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: +1−800−799−7233

National VictimConnect Resource Center: +1−855−4−VICTIM

StaySafeOnline

Illinois Stalking Advocacy Center

About Coalition Against Stalkerware:

The Coalition Against Stalkerware (“CAS” or “Coalition”) is a group dedicated to addressing abuse, stalking, and harassment via the creation and use of stalkerware. Launched in November 2019, the Coalition Against Stalkerware now has 26 partners, including founding partners – Avira, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the European Network for the Work 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 looks to bring together a diverse array of organizations to actively address the criminal behavior perpetrated through stalkerware and raise public awareness about this important issue. Due to the high societal relevance for users all over the globe, with new variants of stalkerware emerging periodically, the Coalition Against Stalkerware is open to new partners and calls for cooperation. To find out more about the Coalition Against Stalkerware please visit the official website www.stopstalkerware.org

1 Spyware refers to “software that enables a user to obtain covert information about another's computer activities by transmitting data covertly from their hard drive,” while stalkerware refers to the software that enables a remote user to monitor the activities on another user’s device without that user’s consent in a manner that may facilitate intimate partner surveillance, harassment, abuse, stalking, and/or violence. (source: Coalition on Stalkerware https://stopstalkerware.org/what-is-stalkerware/)