NYC Has Hired Hackers To Hit Back At Stalkerware

Abusers stalk their victims through tools like Facebook Messenger and Apple Maps. Moreover they spy on their targets through stalker-ware apps and Amazon Alexas. But hackers are now teaming up with victim advocates to catch up. In addition technologists are working in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence. They also offer practical computer security and privacy services to survivors of intimate partner violence.

There are hundreds of apps sold on app market that stalker use to track a victim’s location. They also secretly record voice audios and steal text messages. Over half the victim cases have connections to digital abuse, according to a newly published paper, “Clinical Computer Security for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence.” Victims working with the city government typically see lawyers and case managers who are not well versed with cyber security and privacy problems. Abusers also use indirect method for access like a child’s tablet. A child’s tablet might have access to a family data plan that lets an abuser see a victim’s location, photos, or social-media presence.

“There is an unmet need for additional computer security and privacy expertise,” Havron said. “We need experts to help navigate abuse.” The academic team working with New York City created ISDI (Intimate Partner Violence Spyware Discovery). A downloadable tool that detects whether apps that abusers can exploit are installed on a client’s mobile devices. Victim face a mix of digital and physical threats that can become difficult to untangle.

“How can we help victims?” Havron said. “Moreover as technologists, our first inclination might be to try to fix various software flaws and designs that exacerbate tech abuse. But it’s naive to think improvements to technology would completely mitigate tech abuse. Therefore we need socio-technological interventions.”

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