EXPOSED

One out of 100 mobile users in Kenya affected by talkerware

Mobile threats not to be taken lightly, Kaspersky warns.

In Summary

•Stalkerware is monitoring software or spyware that is used for stalking. 

•According to Kaspersky’s analysis of mobile threats in 2020 , seven per cent of users in Kenya were also affected by malware, and 13 per cent by adware.

Cybersecurity
DATA PRIVACY: Cybersecurity
Image: REUTERS

One out of every 100 mobile users in Kenya was affected by Stalkerware in 2020, cyber security and digital privacy company– Kaspersky has reported.

Stalkerware is monitoring software or spyware that is used for stalking. The term was coined when people started to widely use commercial spyware to spy on their spouses or intimate partners.

According to Kaspersky’s analysis of mobile threats in 2020 , seven per cent of users in Kenya were also affected by malware, and 13 per cent by adware.

Malware is malicious software variants, including viruses, ransomware and spyware.

Adware on the other hand is software that generates revenue for its developer by automatically generating online advertisements in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user.

There are over 57 million mobile subscribers in Kenya according to the Communication Authority of Kenya data.

A similar trend on stalkerware has also been reported in Nigeria in 2020 while in South Africa, malware has affected every four out of 100 users.

Consumers must remain vigilant when it comes to their online activities if they are to keep themselves safe from the growing threat of cyberattacks, Kaspersky notes.

“Even though these numbers might seem low, especially when it comes to stalkerware, it bears mentioning that this form of attack is focused on specific individuals,” Lehan van den Heever, Enterprise Cyber Security Advisor for Kaspersky in Africa, said in a statement yesterday.

So, unlike general malware that is distributed on a massive scale, stalkerware is a more personal crime that has life and death consequences for the individual affected.

For example, a perpetrator can track down their estranged partner with ill intentions, or human trafficking rings targeting children.

Amongst other things, stalkerware can enable the perpetrator to track a victim’s location, read their messages, view their photos and videos, eavesdrop on telephone conversations, and see everything typed on the keypad.

“Our research shows that almost 54,000 users globally were affected by stalkerware apps in 2020. The fact that these are growing momentum in Africa should be cause for concern,” van den Heever said.

And even though South Africa has not been affected by these attacks yet, it is only a matter of time before mobile users in the country start experiencing the dangers of stalkerware, Kaspersky has warned.

To help combat this, Kaspersky released the TinyCheck tool designed to find stalkerware without its operator knowing.

It has recently been updated to help uncover all types of geo-tracking apps that identify people’s movements using their GPS data.

“Over and above the threat of stalkerware, our research shows that malware and adware, although again rather low, still remain cyberthreats that we urge users in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria to be cognisant of and protect against,” van den Heever said.

While Kaspersky notes that mobile users must protect their devices with a strong password, they should also never leave their phones unattended.

“Furthermore, it is important to block the installation of apps from third-party sources in their device settings and install a reliable mobile antivirus solution that detects and warns them about stalkerware and other malware. Lastly, do not click on links in spam emails,” said van den Heever.

In January, experts at Kaspersky said Kenya was among African countries facing a possible increase in cybercrime this year, amid economic uncertainty occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.

They cautioned of expected growing economic turbulence along with the impact of Covid-19, to also contribute to an increase in cybercrime across South Africa and Nigeria.

Even though every country globally has had to deal with the pandemic in its own way, developing economies across Africa have been hard hit by national lockdowns and limited business activity, the firm notes.