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How one technologist is protecting women from online harassment

For taking on bullies, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s director of cybersecurity Eva Galperin is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2019.

How one technologist is protecting women from online harassment
[Photo: Winni Wintermeyer]


As director of cybersecurity at Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has defended civil liberties on the internet since 1990, Eva Galperin identifies and exposes threats to the privacy of journalists, activists, and others online. That includes hundreds of victims of domestic abuse, who are often targeted with surveillance software (aka stalkerware) that lets abusers spy on their victims through digital devices.

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Fast Company: When did you begin working with victims of domestic abuse?

Eva Galperin: I made a public offer on Twitter, a little over a year ago, that if you are a woman who has been sexually assaulted by a hacker and he has threatened to compromise your devices, you can contact me and I’ll make sure you get a proper forensic analysis. Nine thousand retweets later, I had a project. I still get two or three requests per day.

FC: You’re also proposing ways to fight this problem on a larger scale. What are they?

EG: I have some recommendations for states’ attorneys general, because a lot of these companies [that make surveillance software] are operating in the United States and are breaking laws….There is also a lot that antivirus companies can do, because the software is frequently not tagged as malicious—it’s often tagged as suspicious. I’m trying to get them to take a much more aggressive stance toward these tools, which are very frequently marketed for use in this abusive way. Call it malware—it’s malware….One of the biggest problems we have is that there’s still a norm that it’s somehow okay to surveil your partner if you suspect them of infidelity. No, it’s illegal.

FC: What motivated you to pursue a career with EFF rather than working for a tech company?

EG: I just really, really hate bullies. I have a job that gives me the freedom to find the bullies and take them on and take them down, every day I go to work. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing with my time.

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About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.

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