INTERNET security firm Kaspersky has detected 170 “stalkerware” (commercial spyware) programs in the Philippines in the third quarter.

“In Q3 of 2019, there are 170 monitored stalkerware programs found in PH,” Kaspersky said in an email to BusinessWorld on Oct. 15 when asked for the latest data on stalkerware installation attempts in the Philippines.

Kaspersky said this is a slight decline from last year’s 286 stalkerware programs detected.

“The decline is too few to signify a dramatic improvement in terms of PH’s safety against stalkerware,” it noted.

Stalkerware, according to Kaspersky, is often used as a tool for domestic espionage.

“By using this software, an abuser can access their victim’s message, photographs, social media, geolocation and audio or camera recordings, without the victim’s knowledge or consent,” it said.

In its 2019 report on the “State of Stalkerware,” Kaspersky said that the number of users globally who encountered at least one stalkerware installation attempt has increased by 35% to 37,532 in the first eight months of this year.

“In the first eight months of 2019, 37,532 users encountered stalkerware at least once. This is a 35% increase from the same period in 2018 when 27,798 users were targeted,” Kaspersky said in its report released on Oct. 2.

The report noted that Russia remains the most targeted globally, “accounting for 25.6% of potentially affected users, in the first eight months of 2019.”

Russia is followed by India with 10.6% of affected users. Brazil is in third place (10.4%) while the United States is the fourth with 7.1% affected users.

As for Europe, Kaspersky said: “Germany, Italy and the UK hold the top three places respectively.”

Kaspersky attributes this increase to the improvement in detecting stalkerware software through cybersecurity solutions.

“In April, Kaspersky launched functionality in its Android security app — Privacy Alert — that specifically alerts users if a software that can be used for stalking is found on their device. Since then, the number of detections has steadily risen,” it noted in its report.

Kaspersky recommended that IT security firms and advocacy groups should join forces to “ensure that cybersecurity companies respond better to stalkerware.”

“We believe that every person has a right to be privacy-protected. That’s why we deliver security expertise, work closely with international organizations and law enforcement agencies to fight cybercriminals, as well as develop technologies, solutions and services that help you stay safe from the cyberthreats,” it added. — Arjay L. Balinbin