Cybersecurity expert’s tips: How to avoid ‘digital stalking’ seen in ‘You’ series

February 16, 2023 - 6:33 PM
Screengrab by Interaksyon from this video uploaded by Coalition Against Stalkerware on May 22, 2020 (Coalition Against Stalkerware/YouTube)

A cybersecurity expert warned the public against the romanticization of digital stalking amid the release of the first part of the latest season of Netflix’s “You” this month.

Kaspersky acknowledged the return of obsessive Joe Goldberg in the popular series’ fourth season as a London professor who continues to fixate on Marienne Bellamy.

It said that viewers are once again tuning in “to follow the exploits of Joe Goldberg, an obsessive young man going to extreme lengths to insert himself into the lives of those he is transfixed by.”

The cybersecurity firm said that while his character continues to make viewers’ hearts beat faster since the series first aired in 2018, the romanticization of his behavior “raises serious issues about the unacceptable problem of stalking — both online and offline — in our society.”

Joe’s character is notorious for this practice. He uses both types of stalking to charm an individual and prey on them obsessively.

Among the types of stalking is digital stalking or cyberstalking.

It is defined as the “use of internet or other electronic means, to harass and intimidate a selected victim.”

These can be done by a stalkerware or a commercially available software that can be discreetly installed on smartphone devices.

A stalkerware is often used in abusive relationships, enabling perpetrators to monitor an individual’s private life without their knowledge.

It has also been connected to other forms of violent behavior.

“It is important that we do not romanticize the behavior as seen in ‘You,’ but instead denounce it for what it is — stalking. Regardless of whether it is happening online or digitally, stalking and stalkerware is a form of violence,” Christina Jankowski, Kaspersky’s senior external relations manager, said.

“There are real-life stories behind the numbers of those affected, which is why it is important to take active action against it. To gain a better understanding of stalkerware, Kaspersky is sharing insights with the global cyber community and aiding organizations in the fight against digital stalking,” she added.

The cybersecurity firm said that as of 2022, there are 29,312 people worldwide who have been affected by a stalkerware.

The Coalition Against Stalkerware has estimated that the use of this form of software around the world could be close to one million cases annually.

“Stalking is a criminal, traumatic, and dangerous offense. Yet movies, TV, and music consistently present stalking as desirable, cute, sexy, and/or flattering — but in real life, it’s unwanted, terrifying, and illegal,” WESTNET CEO Karen Bentley said.

To protect oneself from being victimized by a stalkerware, Kaspersky suggests the following be done on mobile devices:

  • Have a strong password that you will never share with your partner, friends, or colleagues.
  • Regularly check the permission of installed apps since a stalkerware can be disguised as a fake app.
  • Delete apps that are rarely or never used.
  • Check your browsing history since in order to download a stalkerware, a perpetrator visits websites that the affected user probably does not know.
  • Initiate a cybersecurity solution that protects against mobile threats. Users can download software like Kaspersky Free.

Kaspersky is among the founders of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, a group dedicated to addressing abuse, stalking, and harassment via the creation and use of stalkerware.