New Delhi | Jagran Technology Desk: There has been a 51 per cent increase in the use of Spyware and Stalkware between the lockdown period of March and June, according to a report by digital security firm Avast. In India only, since March Avast has protected over 4,000 users from apps capable of spying, mostly stalkerware, with the monthly average up 20 per cent vs. the first two months of the year. The growing digital threat comes in the backdrop of an increase in domestic violence cases in the country during the lockdown.

What are stalkerware apps?

In general, it refers to the spyware apps that are used by couples to spy on their partners by installing such apps on their devices without their consent so as to trace their location and other smartphone activities.

According to National Network to end Domestic Violence (NNEDV) of the United States, Stalkerwares are generally designed to operate in stealth mode with no persistent notification to the user of the device, that gives abusers and stalkers a robust and invasive tool to perpetrate harassment, monitoring, stalking, and abuse.

“There are some dedicated apps which people install on their partners’ or their kids’ phones. When you install such apps, it asks for permissions such as access to gallery locations, call logs among other things. Once you do that, the master device which has a dashboard can see whatever is going on with the other device,” Guwahati-based independent cyber-security researcher Indrajeet Bhuyan was quoted as saying by Indian Express.

Stalkerwares are also used to phish data, in the disguise of anti-theft applications with which a device can be tracked in case of being stolen or lost.

Google banned Stalkerware apps

Alphabet-owned-Google while announcing the updates to Google ads policies, which will go in effect from August 11, 2020, onwards, said that it will ban the online ads that promote stalkerware, spyware and other surveillance methods invading the privacy of its users without their consent.

Chinese spyware disguised as tax software accused of industrial espionage

According to an NBC News report, analysts at a cybersecurity firm Trustwave found spyware embedded in the sales tax software, which they nicknamed Goldenspy. It installed a back door that gave attackers complete access to a company’s networks which was paying its taxes through it, Trustwave reported, marking a whole new dimension of corporate espionage.

Lockdown and increase in spyware apps

Reports suggest that an increase in internet usage by almost everyone during the lockdown has resulted in such a rise of spyware apps. With most services online, the density of potential targets for cybercriminals has increased, resulting in subsequent exploitation opportunities which remain a big challenge for the cyber cells across the nation and beyond.

Posted By: Rakesh Kumar Jha