Hacker Eva Galperin Has a Plan to Eradicate Stalkerware

from Wired

Over the last year, Eva Galperin says she’s learned the signs: the survivors of domestic abuse who come to her describing how their tormentors seem to know everyone they’ve called, texted, and even what they discussed in their most private conversations. How their abusers seem to know where they’ve been and sometimes even turn up at those locations to menace them. How they flaunt photos mysteriously obtained from the victim’s phone, sometimes using them for harassment or blackmail. And how none of the usual remedies to suspected hacking—changing passwords, setting up two-factor authentication—seem to help.

The reason those fixes don’t work, in these cases, is because the abuser has deeply compromised the victim’s phone itself. The stalker doesn’t have to be a skilled hacker; they just need easily accessible consumer spyware and an opportunity to install it on their target’s device. An entire industry of that so-called spouseware, or stalkerware, has grown in recent years, one that Galperin argues represents a deeply underestimated scourge of digital privacy.

“Full access to someone’s phone is essentially full access to someone’s mind,” says Galperin, a security researcher who leads the Threat Lab of the digital civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The people who end up with this software on their phones can become victims of physical abuse, of physical stalking. They get beaten. They can be killed. Their children can be kidnapped. It’s the small end of a very large, terrifying wedge.”

More here.

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3 Comments

  1. Eva Galperin makes an interesting point to which I had not given a lot of thought. I believe that I can speak for most people, when it comes to a case of abuse or harassment, we usually associate these to the existence of a prior relationship between the parties involved. Although we are aware that digital devices have proliferated around the globe at an immeasurable rate, we still tend to ignore the risks that this implies. More than helping the average person to accomplish most of their tasks, from which many, like this comment, require a digital device to be completed in a highly developed society, these devices are also a gateway for people to harm one another. Because many aspects of our lives are linked in one way or another to our devices, accessing to them can reveal more about us than we think. From places we’ve been to the products we consume, a lot can be learned from our devices. If we think about it, the damage that can be done if this information winds up on the wrong hands is a lot. People with bad intentions can use this information to invade the digital privacy of others, but the scary part is that said invasion of privacy can turn into a real life issue. It is also true that, usually, whenever we have any of our information stolen, we tend to attribute the issue to the specific app or online account from which it was stolen while ignoring that our whole device might be compromised. Overall I believe that we should be more conscious about the information that we store in our devices and learn how to recognize the signs that can help us realize if there is something wrong.

  2. Women that face sexual abuse from stalkers or ex relationships tend to face these issues beyond theit control of moving, deleting social media, blocking, and in some cases getting a new number. However, despite the women making these efforts they often still fall victims of this type of abuse again and too commonly from the same offender. These cases do not occur because the girls are careless but because of the technology available to these offenders. The offenders during the time period that they are in contact with the victims get onto their phones and download secret spyware so that they can have full and total control over the person’s iphone and all of their information on it. One of the main issues with this is that the place where a person has the most amount of personal and important information is on their phone. Due to this reason the stalkers are able to find these victims with tracking devices installed in the phone without the victims even being aware that they are being tracked through their mobile telephone devices. Also the stalkers are able to get into these womens accounts and they can see other peoples locations that the victim has also put those individuals at risk. A final issue with this matter is that they can use information found on victims phones to blackmail these victims into performing tasks for them. This issue bags the question: why are technologies of this magnitude available to average citizens? These technologies should not be available for anyone to purchase because of their capabilities. These technologies should be limited to those in specialized forces where these technologies are necessary or it should at least require a license. Many products on sale in markets are questionable in which they should or should not be available to just anybody. These technologies also make the blaming of the victim a regular occurrence because police will blame victims for being less observant of their belongings instead of giving them support for their personal space and privacy being invaded without their knowledge of it. I think that provisions should be made to the type of technologies that civilians should be able to purchase. I feel that the government also needs to monitor registered offenders better and give them less parole inorder to avoid recurring crimes against women in the surrounding communities. I feel that it is important to not only punish the offender, but protect the victim, which in most cases is forgotten about. People are usually so quick to blame the offender that they forget that the victim lives with the incident even after the perpetrator goes to jail and even more so when they are on parole. It is important for people to understand that every action or technology leads to other possibilities as there is no way to control what the consumer does with the product when they leave the store. If it was possible for consumers to be monitored for what they do with the technology that they consume then it would be safer for these distributors to be selling merchandise with these capabilities to consumers.

  3. With the many amazing goodhearted opportunities that technology has provided people, it feels as though there are equally bad and malicious ways that people take advantage of it. If people are interested enough, they can figure out ways to track your every move, every text, every phone call, and more. Technology has assisted stalkers and abusers in finding just another way to find people or stay in complete control of them, even when they are not aware of it happening. One of the scariest parts of this is that gaining control and access to someone’s phone is not that difficult; the article reports that it really just requires some basic spyware. In a quick google search, thousands of articles come up on how to install spyware on an iPhone, some with a disclaimer saying that you should not do it without the other person’s consent, but this does nothing to stop someone from doing it with bad intentions. At a time when our lives revolve around our phones, there is pretty much no other way to know more about a person. We bring our phones everywhere we go giving someone the opportunity to track our location, and so much of our communication takes place in text messages or phone calls, where we often reveal personal feelings to friends or family or talk about future plans. If an abuser or stalker is able to have all of this information, it gives them the ultimate control over their victim. Luckily there is a woman who understands how dangerous this is and is doing what she can to put an end to this Stalkerware. She is trying to get companies like Apple and the antivirus industry to take this threat seriously. She believes that the people who are doing this should be held responsible for these terrible actions and I agree that there should be legal repercussions to prevent people from doing this and to stop people from being allowed to sell this spyware.

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