As the NSW parliamentary inquiry into coercive control in domestic relationships wraps up this week, it’s timely that an Australian cybersecurity company has announced it will launch a new, free technological tool it has developed which is able to detect covert apps on phones, without also alerting a stalker that their monitoring has been discovered. Stalking is a behaviour that falls into the category of family violence and domestic partner monitoring is often linked to coercive control of victims.
The tech company Kaspersky, in conjunction with Wesnet, a peak domestic violence network, has developed open source program TinyCheck which enables family violence victims and services to identify if individuals are being cyber-stalked and monitored. The tool was developed as part of the global Coalition Against Stalkerware.
As in most states, in the ACT it’s an offence to stalk someone with the intent to cause fear or the intent to harass them. Penalties range from two to five years imprisonment. But the behaviour is in fact increasingly common in relationships marred by family violence. Wesnet has released the results of their research canvassing frontline family violence workers and found tracking/monitoring of women by perpetrators rose a massive 244 percent between 2015 and 2020. The data also reveals that “the most common abuse experienced with physical family violence is stalking, often via technological means”:
More than one-third (38.7 per cent) of 442 frontline workers surveyed said clients were having their banking and finances tracked, monitored and restricted by perpetrators via technology “all the time” and another third saw it happening “often”. Almost all frontline workers, 99.3 per cent, have clients reporting online abuse.
It’s thought that the easy and cheap access to increasingly sophisticated monitoring technology is what is leading to this increase in misuse by abusers.
Now, there are “new and emerging ways that tech is being used that we didn’t have back in 2015, such as children being given phones or other devices as a way for abusers to contact or monitor the mother of the child and children’s social media accounts being used.” Kaspersky researcher Noushin Shabab told the Herald that “some abusers manipulated legal apps such as ‘parental control’ programs to use them to stalk victims, who are almost always women”.
How does it work?
The TinyCheck program creates wi-fi networks which a victim can join, after which outgoing traffic from their devices is recorded and ‘sniffed’ to check if there is any spyware on their phone. The makers say it does not interfere with the device and does not alert the perpetrator of the discovery. Any captured network traffic is able to be copied and provided to police as evidence that e-stalking is taking place.
Because there is a significant link between stalking and lethal or almost-lethal violence, this is a welcome development and we encourage any of our readers who may be concerned about cyber monitoring/stalking to consider downloading this free tool to enhance their safety and awareness of any risk from spyware, GPS tracking and the like.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
If you need assistance with a family law matter involving family violence, please get in touch with Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note that our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Family Law.