MONDAY, April 15, 2024
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A new survey reveals shocking data about the extent of digital abuse

A new survey reveals shocking data about the extent of digital abuse

According to the study by Kaspersky – which interviewed 1000 people in 21 countries around the world – online daters are keen to take steps to protect themselves in the quest for love.

However, despite almost a quarter of respondents (23%) saying they had experienced some form of online stalking from a person they were newly dating, people are still vulnerable to an alarming rise in stalking and abuse this Valentine’s Day from risks posed by location settings, data privacy and more broadly, oversharing. 

The types of abuse are varied, with well over a third (39%) of respondents having reported some form of violence or abuse from a current or previous partner: 16% of respondents had been sent unwanted emails or messages and perhaps most concerningly, 13% had been filmed or photographed without their consent. A further 10% admitted they had had their location tracked, 10% that their social media accounts or emails had been hacked, and worryingly, 7% had had stalkerware installed on their devices without their consent. 

Proportionally more female respondents had experienced some form of violence or abuse compared to male respondents (42% versus 36%). Concerningly, more of those currently dating had experienced violence or abuse compared to those in a long-term relationship (48% versus 37%). 34% of respondents said they worried about the prospect of being stalked online, and female respondents were slightly more concerned about the prospect than males (36% were worried compared to 31% of male respondents). 

The picture differs globally too, with more of those experiencing some form of online stalking being from parts of South and Central America and Asia - 42% of respondents in India reported some form of online stalking, as did 38% in Mexico and 36% in Argentina.

“The Internet of Things, or connected world is brilliant and offers a myriad of possibilities. But with opportunity comes threats and one of those threats of a connected world is the ease of access to traceable data which leaves us vulnerable to abuse”, commented David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky. “Whilst the blame for these horrific behaviours never lies with stalking victims, unfortunately, there is still a burden upon them to take steps to minimise risks. I think it’s great that people are taking steps to verify identities online, but would encourage people to just stop and do a quick sense check on any information, passwords or data they share, to just think through how that information could be used in nefarious hands.”

“Navigating online dating and virtual spaces can be challenging and social media and dating apps must implement verification processes, which can help confirm that users' profiles match their actual photos. To my knowledge, Bumble is the only dating app currently using this level of verification. I would love to see others adopting similar safety measures. Additionally, safety guides and resources should be readily accessible online in multiple languages, ensuring that vulnerable individuals have the necessary support without needing to register for an app”, commented Emma Pickering, Head of Technology-Facilitated Abuse and Economic Empowerment, Refuge.

The UK's Online Safety Act sets a precedent by regulating platforms to protect users. Given the pervasive nature of stalking and technology-facilitated abuse, we advise individuals to secure their online presence, including passwords and accounts. Those with concerns should contact local authorities or support services. In the UK, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline at 0808 2000 247 offers assistance” she added.

Kaspersky has created some top tips for staying safe whilst dating online below, for more details, please take a look at our safe dating guide or for further ways to stay safe from Stalkerware, please visit https://stopstalkerware.org/resources/ 

•    Keep passwords to yourself and make sure they are complex and unique

•    If it seems too good to be true, it might just be – if in doubt check! 

•    Take a moment to check your digital privacy

•    Think before you share – the internet has long memory and sharing too much too soon can leave you vulnerable

•    Create a ‘safe plan’ if you move from digital to real worlds

•    Consider using a comprehensive cyber security or VPN solution to protect yourself

Kaspersky works with experts and organizations in the field of domestic violence, ranging from victim support services and perpetrator programs to research and government agencies, to share knowledge and support both professionals and victims. Kaspersky is one of the co-founders of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, an international group dedicated to tackling stalkerware and combating domestic violence. Since 2021, Kaspersky has been a consortium partner of the EU project DeStalk, co-funded by the Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Program of the European Union. Kaspersky has also launched and maintains TinyCheck, a free, safe and easy-to-use tool to check devices for stalkerware and monitoring apps. 

A new survey reveals shocking data about the extent of digital abuse

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