Press releases

Avast and Refuge Join Forces to Combat Growing Threat of Tech Abuse in the UK

Refuge’s Tech Abuse and Advocacy Service to receive funding and support from Avast to raise awareness and fight tech abuse


London, United Kingdom, May 19, 2021 – Avast (LSE:AVST), a global leader in digital security and privacy, today announced it has partnered with national domestic abuse charity Refuge to raise awareness, and help combat the growing threat of domestic abuse enabled by technology. Modern technology has given perpetrators new ways to stalk, isolate and control women using the easily accessible apps and devices.

Avast has partnered with Refuge to provide funding and support for its increasingly important Tech Abuse and Advocacy Service. The service provides critical help and practical advice for women experiencing tech abuse. An example of such abuse is stalkerware. Dubbed by the United Nations as the “shadow pandemic”, stalkerware is unethical software that allows people to track someone’s location, without the victim’s knowledge or consent. Avast recently revealed there has been a 93% increase in the use of spyware and stalkerware apps in the UK since lockdown measures were first introduced. In the past year alone, Avast has protected over 4,585 users in the UK from apps capable of spying.

Commenting on the partnership, Jaya Baloo, CISO, Avast, said, “In recent years, we have seen the increasing use of technology such as stalkerware and spyware by perpetrators to stalk, harass, abuse, and control their victims. Tech abuse is experienced as part of a pattern of controlling behaviour by the abuser and is often accompanied by direct domestic abuse such as physical violence, sexual, and emotional abuse. As a member of the Coalition against Stalkerware, we are dedicated to tackling these oppressive and harmful technologies. We are proud to be partnering with Refuge, whose expertise in the field is making a huge difference in rescuing and supporting survivors of abuse.”

Refuge’s tech team is equipped to recognise tech abuse and to empower survivors with the knowledge to protect themselves online. It includes 40 tech champions supported by seven specialist staff who have been expertly trained to support and respond to high-level tech abuse cases.

“We’re delighted to be joining forces with Avast to tackle this issue,” adds Ruth Davison, CEO at Refuge. “Fighting tech abuse of all forms will require cross-industry and sector collaboration. For almost 50 years, we have dedicated ourselves to helping victims of domestic abuse, and this partnership with Avast enables us to help tackle the evolving threat of tech abuse.”

Refuge and Avast are both members of the Coalition against Stalkerware, a cross-industry organisation committed to fighting domestic abuse, stalking, and harassment by addressing the use of stalkerware and raising public awareness about this issue. Avast and Refuge will be planning a series of awareness campaigns to highlight the issue of tech abuse, and encourage victims to seek help.

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About Refuge:
Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.