<!--byline-->By John P. Mello Jr.<!--/byline-->
<br /><!--date-->Jul 14, 2020, 7:49 am PT<!--/date-->
</p><div id="story-body"><p class="story-body">Advertising for software and hardware designed to persecute and spy on people will soon be banned on Google.

The promotion of products or services marketed or targeted for the explicit purpose of tracking or monitoring another person or their activities without their authorization will be prohibited on the platform starting from August 11, the company owned by Alphabet, announced on Friday in its advertising policy center.

Under a change in Google ads Enabling the policy of dishonest behavior, the ban will include advertising for spyware or malware used to monitor text, phone calls or browsing history, as well as hardware, such as GPS trackers specifically marketed for spying or tracking someone without their consent and surveillance equipment – cameras, audio recorders, dash cam, babysitter – marketed for the explicit purpose of spying.

The ban does not include advertising for private investigation services or products designed for parents to track or monitor children.

Google noted that policy violators will receive at least seven days’ notice before their account on the platform is suspended.

loopholes

Security blogger Graham Cluley stressed that the exemption for software that allows parents to track down their children could be a major shortcoming in the new policy.

To avoid politics, he wrote in his blog, “all a stalkerware company needs to do is pose as a family security app, which helps you keep track of your young children.”

“Unfortunately, I doubt that Google’s advertising ban will prevent stalkerware apps from promoting themselves, it’s just that they may no longer be as explicit in their online advertisements as to how they are most likely to be used,” he added.

There may also be other shortcomings.

“Google is banning advertisements from app developers and the apps themselves, but what about blog advertisements with an article about the 10 best surveillance apps to download?” asked Liz Miller, vice president and chief analyst at Constellation Research, a technology research and consultancy firm in Cupertino, California.

“It’s not an app. It’s about content,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Will it be a loophole?”

“This is a great title maker,” he added, “but the reality is that I can still search for” spy apps “and they will continue to appear in my Google search results.”

Unlimited capacities

Miller argued that Google’s new policy looks beyond malicious people.

“What Google is responding to is the awareness that these apps are used not only by people who have malicious intentions, but also by criminal companies, especially when you start talking about apps that allow you to follow and track a person’s movements and see the content on their devices without their knowledge, “he said.

“It’s a very slippery slope in a very privacy-threatening territory that Google doesn’t want to have anything to do with,” he added.

Spying and stalking software is a very serious problem, noted David Ruiz, a blogger for Malwarebytes Labs, a computer security software manufacturer based in Santa Clara, California.

“The functionality of these types of apps is almost limitless: they can extract text messages, emails, and call logs; reveal sensitive photos and videos; expose your web browsing history and pinpoint a person’s GPS location,” he said. to TechNewsWorld.

“In the hands of an abuser,” he continued, “these types of apps could make security planning extremely difficult for a survivor, dismantling their attempts to privately call a domestic abuse hotline, find help from a friend or family member, or physically escape. ”

Industry response

The damage caused by spying and stalking software can be serious, added Chlo Messdaghi, vice president of strategy at Point3 Security
, a provider of training and analysis tools for the security industry based in Baltimore, Md.

“It gives someone the power to psychologically abuse a victim, which affects them physically and emotionally for years and years,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“And when victims go to the FBI and device manufacturers and transporters, most of the time they get no response,” he said.

“Google should have done it years ago. It’s illegal,” he noted. “Many of us in the security field are amazed that companies still allow stalkerware to exist in their stores or that their sites can run ads for it.”

The stalkerware problem has sparked a response in the industry.

“To further improve the detection of such software in the IT security sector, many organizations are joining the Coalition against Stalkerware to share their knowledge and protect users from stalkerware, “explained Tara Hairston, head of government relations for Kaspersky Lab North America, an information security software company located in Woburn, Massachusetts.

“In addition to identifying, further research into the link between cyberviolence, physical violence and the gendered nature of stalkerware use is crucial in order to develop a clearer picture and a better understanding of this issue,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Fall and Rise of Stalkerware

Hairston noted that Kaspersky saw a decline in stalkerware infections among its global mobile users during the first four months of 2020, at 8,163 in April from 11,532 in January.

“It is our hypothesis that this decrease may be related to the blockade situation worldwide,” he said.

As most stalkerware is used to spy on an intimate partner, he continued, “nowadays the need for this type of app should be on the decline. It is not necessary to spy on partners when they are stuck together.”

That trend may change, however, a report released by another cyber security company, Avast, found a 51 percent increase in the use of espionage and stalking software in the United States from March to June, compared to the first two months. of the year.

James McQuiggan, the security defender KnowBe4, a safety awareness training company located in Clearwater, Florida, noted that the pandemic created a fertile environment for malicious actors willing to spread malicious apps.

“Knowing that most people who use the Internet during the day are people at work, it has become a target-rich environment for cyber criminals,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“End users are more exposed and vulnerable at home than inside a building with colleagues, IT support and network protections,” he explained.


John P. Mello Jr. he has been a reporter for the ECT news network since 2003. His areas of interest include cybersecurity, IT problems, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net is Government security news. Email John.