More Than Half of Latin Americans Have Been Victims of Digital Harassment

    Stalkerware stands out as the most used software for digital harassment purposes

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    Kaspersky’s most recent report “The State of Stalkerware 2023” reveals that 52% of Latin Americans were victims of harassment or suspected that they had been harassed through some digital tool such as spy applications for mobile phones or laptops, smart home devices and tracking devices. Stalkerware stands out as the most used software for digital harassment purposes with 24% of respondents affected by this technology.

    Stalkerware is malicious software commercially available in mobile app stores under the guise of parental control or employee management apps, and to be installed, it requires physical access to the person’s phone. Depending on the software used, you can monitor the location of the device, text messages, chats on social networks, photos, browsing history, or even have access to the smartphone’s camera and microphone. Since this tool works in the background, those affected are completely unaware that all their digital activity is being monitored by the perpetrator, posing an invisible threat to their victims.

    Raising awareness

    The State of Stalkerware is an annual report from Kaspersky that aims to raise awareness and better understand how people around the world are affected by digital stalking. The 2023 findings reveal a year-on-year increase of almost six percent (5.8%) in the global number of people affected compared to 2022. The figures reverse the downward trend of 2021, confirming that digital harassment remains a global problem. Brazil and Mexico are in the world’s top 10 countries most affected by these tools.

    The study also reveals that 52% of Latin Americans claim to have been victims of harassment or suspect they have been harassed through some digital tool; of them 44% men and 45% women. The main tool of digital harassment is stalkerware, affecting 20% ​​of Latin Americans, with 20% of men and 19% of women.

    In Latin America, 9% of those surveyed responded that they have “ever” installed an application or made some configuration on their partner’s device; 10% of the men acknowledged having done so and 7% of the women agreed to engage in this practice. In addition, 6% of those surveyed admitted that they pressured their colleagues to install a spy app on their mobile phones, of which 6% are men and 5% women.

    Suspicion of infidelity, on the table

    62% of Latin Americans disapprove of the idea of ​​monitoring their partner without them realizing it, reflecting a predominant sentiment against such behavior; 63% of men share this idea versus 61% of women. The other 38% justify it in different scenarios: when it is related to a security issue, if there is suspicion of infidelity or if it is believed that the person could be involved in some criminal activity.

    On the contrary, 24% of Latin Americans support total transparency in relationships and consider consensual control appropriate; 24% of men responded in this sense against 23% of women, while 9% consider it acceptable only when a mutual agreement is reached.

    Another revealing figure is that 27% of Latin Americans said they are worried that their partner will violate their digital privacy by asking for full access to their mobile phone, whether physically or remotely. Women show greater concern at 28% compared to 25% of men.

    Some other digital tools used to carry out digital harassment are: webcam access, tracking devices, laptop applications, through smart home devices and health monitoring devices.

    “Kaspersky updates this report every year to give visibility to the seriousness of this problem and reiterate that all types of digital harassment constitute a violation of privacy to which we all have the right. “Stalkerware should not be considered solely as a technical problem, it is a form of digital abuse that studies have linked to both psychological abuse and domestic violence,” says Carolina Mojica, Consumer Product Manager for the North and South markets of Latin America on Kaspersky.

    Experts share five signs that may indicate that your devices have a stalkerware app installed:

    • There is an increase in the use of your mobile data. It happens because spy applications require Internet access in order to transfer the collected data.
    • Your mobile device’s battery is poor, drains very quickly, or performs slowly. This is because stalkerware apps run in the background.
    • You detect that there are unknown applications on your mobile device and you do not remember having installed them before.
    • You notice suspicious background noise or strange sounds when you make calls. That may be a sign that they may be listening to you.
    • Other people know your private information, such as places you’ve recently visited, conversations you’ve had with people close to you, or other personal information. They may have had access to this data through a spy app.

    Be on alert

    It is important that if a person discovers the presence of stalkerware on their device, they refrain from deleting it because whoever installed it will know that it has been disabled and that can put the victim at risk. The most recommended thing is that the victim seek help through a different device, limit the use of their equipment and document this violation of their privacy.

    To protect yourself and minimize the risk of becoming victims of stalkerware, here are five basic recommendations:

    • Lock your phone screen with a complex password and don’t share it with anyone, not even your partner, friends or family.
    • Regularly review the applications installed on your phone and delete the ones you no longer use or need.
    • Disable the third-party app installation option if you have Android devices.
    • Never leave your phone unattended. It is enough for a person to physically access it to install stalkerware.

    Resonance Costa Rica
    At Resonance, we aspire to live in harmony with the natural world as a reflection of our gratitude for life. Visit and subscribe at Resonance Costa Rica Youtube Channel
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