Home Health Stalkerware, the ugly record of Italy: it is the second most exposed European country

Stalkerware, the ugly record of Italy: it is the second most exposed European country

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Stalkerware, the ugly record of Italy: it is the second most exposed European country

Stalkerware is software that allows you to monitor a person’s online activitiesthrough its mobile devices or smart devices.

By installing one of these software on the smartphone of the person you want to control, you can have remote access to all information: location, mail, phone calls, instant messages, SMS, social networks, camera, browser history and all types of files. These are applications that cost a few tens of euros and which act practically without the victim realizing it. Whatever he does with his smartphone, that person is observed, typically through a web portal, even by his persecutor.

Il report The state of stalkerware in 2021edited by Kasperskyspeaks of numbers on the rise after the decline recorded in the recent past: in 2021, worldwide, 32,694 cases were registered, 611 of which in our country, which makes Italy the second most exposed country in Europe, as well as the eleventh in the world.

Numbers that reflect the phenomenon in the dimensions measured by Kaspersky (therefore relating to its customers) and which therefore are only a part of the total: the Coalition Against Stalkerware association (co-founded by Kaspersky) estimates that, every year, there are around one million cases of stalkerware worldwide.


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The situation in Italy

The numbers recorded in 2021 are down compared to previous years, but it is too early to talk about a structural decline, as Kaspersky has been measuring the phenomenon of stalkerware since 2018. It should also be considered that these software are used to the detriment of the victims and which potentially fall within the framework of stalking, cyberstalking and more generally abuses and harassment. The fact that it is a diminishing phenomenon does not allow us to rejoice.

The research also highlights a link between online and offline violence: beyond the use of this type of software, 11% of Italians confirmed that they had been a victim of stalking digitale and 13% claim to have been the victim of abuse or violence by the partner (lower percentages than those surveyed worldwide, with 24% of people victims of digital stalking and 25% victims of the partner). Online and offline give rise to different phenomena, but the percentages suggest a form of overlap: not all victims of violence in the real world suffer a form of digital stalking, but those who are victims of the latter are often also exposed to live abuse.

In 2021 in Italy, limited to those who use security software produced by Kaspersky, 611 cases of digital stalking were recorded, in strong decrease compared to 1,144 in 2020 and 1829 in 2019, years during which our country ranked eighth and sixth respectively in the world among the nations most subject to the phenomenon. However, it is not a question of international rankings or numbers: there is a cultural trend to be examined since (again according to the data in the report) 26% of Italians say it is legitimate to control the partner “in particular circumstances”.

Global phenomenon

Kaspersky has extended the investigation to more than 185 between countries and territories, to the point of establishing that the most affected in absolute terms are Russia, Brazil, the United States and India. Among European countries, only Germany is more exposed than Italy.

While the use of stalkerware is decreasing, the mindset that leads to control and violence of all kinds is always current: In November 2021, Kaspersky commissioned a global research involving 21,000 participants from 21 different countries: 70% of respondents said they were against partner control, but the remaining 30% cause concern. The reasons for unauthorized surveillance are suspicions of infidelityl’personal safety and you suspect your partner is involved in illegal activities.


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Abuse and technology

The combination of technology and abuse is confirmed by various non-profit organizations such as the American Nnedv (National Network to End Domestic Violence) e la europea WWP EN (European Network for the Work with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence), who routinely come into contact with victims of abuse.

Berta Vall Castellón e Anna McKenzie of WWP EN are convinced that “ICT technologies are powerful tools for those who exercise coercive control, especially in those relationships where violence is already part of life offline “. Domestic violence increased significantly during the pandemic, especially during the various lockdowns. These considerations are echoed by those of Nnedv, entrusted to the voice of Toby Shulruff: “There are a growing number of smart devices, including home assistants, connected appliances, security systems connected to wifi networks and smartphones, which are used in episodes of violence housekeeper. Although stalkerware is a common concern, there are also many other tools exploited to perpetrate abuse by exploiting technology ”. In short: technology also becomes an enabling tool for abusesbut alone it is not enough to legitimize them.

How to defend yourself

Since stalkerware software must be installed on the victims’ devices, the digital stalker needs to get hold of them: protect them with a pin, a password or a recognition technique biometric is important. Likewise, these softwares are very energy-intensive: if the devices tend to overheat and the battery reduces the duration in a more than noticeable way, it is worth going to a specialist who can help identify the causes. Even in the face of the certainty of being spied digitally, it is necessary not to awaken in the stalker the suspicion of having been discovered: it is therefore advisable to ignore it and ask for the intervention of the police.

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