American actor Penn Badgley was quite shocked to find out that women around the world were romanticizing Joe Goldberg, the character he plays on the Netflix thriller series You.
Replying to multiple tweets on the microblogging platform, Badgley tried to warn the fans who were attracted to the idea of a “creepy stalker” and serial killer. However, Badgley is not the only one trying to warn individuals of digital stalking.
With the release of the You season 4 of the series, cybersecurity experts are warning viewers to watch out for digital stalking and to stop romanticizing the concept of a stalker and serial killer.
“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,” says Christina Jankowski, Senior External Relations Manager at Kaspersky.
“There are real-life stories behind the numbers of those affected which is why it is important to take active action against it.
You season 4
For the unversed, You is a psychological thriller based on the books by American author Caroline Kepnes. The story revolves around a bookstore manager Joe Goldberg, played by Penn Badgley, whose obsessive nature and extreme love turn him into a serial killer.
The first season of the series premiered in September 2018 and soon caught the attention of viewers around the world, becoming a popular show among women. Owning to its popularity, the series was renewed for a fourth season with You season 4 part one released on February 9, 2023. The second part of You season 4 will be released in March, 2023.
Romanticization of Digital Stalking
While stalking, online and offline, is a criminal offence. However, series such as You may create a form of sympathy among viewers, which can justify such obsessive behavior and dilute the gravity of the issue.
In a recent report released by Kaspersky, the organization highlighted a stalkerware, a commercially available software which can installed on smartphone devices to digitally stalk an individual.
The report stated that the software was often used in abusive relationships that enabled the perpetrators to track individual and their private life without their knowledge. In 2022, over 29,312 people were affected by stalkerware.
“Stalking is a criminal, traumatic, and dangerous offence. 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,” comments Karen Bentley, CEO at WESNET.
“As the peak body for Specialist Women’s Domestic and Family Violence Services in Australia, we work with many victim support organizations where survivors come to seek help with this problem. Hence, it’s so important to build the capacity of these organizations and educate the public that this type of behaviour is unacceptable. To that end, we are pleased to be working with Kaspersky and all of the partners from the Coalition Against Stalkerware.”
Practical Help: Coalition Against Stalkerware and TinyCheck
In 2019, the security company alongside nine other organizations founded the Coalition Against Stalkerware, which today counts more than 40 members worldwide. The Coalition’s mission is to improve the detection of stalkerware, combat domestic violence, promote knowledge sharing among non-profit organizations and companies, and raise public awareness about the problem.
Furthermore, the company has developed the free open-source tool, TinyCheck, which enables the detection of stalkerware in a simple, fast and non-invasive way on an affected device without alerting the perpetrator.
Digital or cyber stalking can be defined as the use of electronic means and the internet to follow, harass or pursue an individual, group or organization with obsessive attention. It is essential to understand stalking, warning sighs and further report the same to law enforcement.
Here are recommendations for those affected by stalkerware
- Check the Coalition Against Stalkerware website http://www.stopstalkerware.org/. There are videos on the website that include explanations which provides information for victims to better recognize the warning signs of stalkerware and what steps to follow.
- Not to delete stalkerware as any change to the settings may alert your potential perpetrator and might escalate the situation.
- Check phone and apps for warning signs such as fast-draining battery, suspicious apps or those that need access to track location.
- Check for “unknown sources” setting enabled on your digital device, as this could be a sign that unwanted software has been installed.
- Check personal browsing history: In order to download stalkerware, the perpetrator must visit websites that the affected user probably does not know. Alternatively, there could be no history at all if the perpetrator has deleted it.
While the above signs may help in detecting the installation of stalkerware, it is important to note that these may not be definitive indicators.
In addition to the above, it is essential to protect your phone and digital devices with strong password. To regularly check the installed applications on your phone and the permissions granted to them.