Are women more at risk of cyber crime than men?

Cyber specialist at SHA, Candice Sutherland recently chatted to the media about women being greater targets of cyber crime than men.

Cyber crime targeted against women is on the rise. Often the motivation is to intentionally harm the victim using technology and social media such as Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms, emails and mobile phones. Trolls are invariably men who use tactics like blackmail, defamation, extortion, spying, broadcasting of sexual material or obscene content, offensive messages, and vulgar photographs via cell phones and personal computers

Women are the primary targets of cyber stalking and digital voyeurism too (the practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviors, such as undressing, sexual activity, or other actions considered to be of a private nature). The internet and social media are used to recruit large numbers of victims and scam artists target women whose profiles indicate that they have access to money or are in high paid positions

Stalkers frequently have an intimate relationship with their victim. They harass their prey with the specific intention of causing fear out of a desire for revenge or humiliation. Fake email and social media accounts created with a pseudonym makes this easy, and tools such as spyware and GPS (global positioning systems) are used to track their targets every move. Computers and the internet allow predators to exploit women and girls anonymously and easily – at the click of a button

Why is it important for women to be aware of cybercrime?

89% of local domestic violence cases reported that victims were experiencing intimidation and threats by abusers via
technology, including through cell phones, texts, and email. Digital harassment can include defamation, revenge porn, malicious impersonation, slut-shaming and the sexual surveillance of women in public spaces. There were also reports of accounts being hacked to contact work colleagues, friends and family to spread malicious rumours or complete fabricated lies. Recording an act of rape is used as blackmail against the victim and this is becoming an increasingly frequent practice

Are women more at risk than men?

A survey by Kaspersky Lab in conjunction with B2B International found the following: A total of 11,135 people aged 16 and over were surveyed. 51% were men and 49% were women. See Kaspersky report here

  • 19% of women think that they may become victims of cyber crime compared to one in four men
  • 38% of women were unaware of ransomware versus 27% of men
  • 22% of women faced financial losses versus 19% of men
  • 34% of women are unaware of mobile malware versus 23% of men
  • 34% of women are unaware of exploits versus 21% of men
  • 36% of women versus 28% of men take no precautions when handing over their mobile device to friends or familybecause they perceive “no threat”
  • 73% of women faced malware threats compared with 65% of menWomen however took greater care with their financial data. A recent cyber attack on e-commerce targeted 47% of men versus 39% of women and women were more concerned with fraud than men, according to Kaspersky. “59% of men and 64% of women are worried about the risk of online fraud affecting their bank accounts while 46% of men and 51% women feel vulnerable when making online payments.”Ironically, when it comes to cyber bullying, females are reported to make up the majority of internet bullies. This could be attributed to the sense of power and assertiveness that comes with the anonymity and detachment provided by cyberspace

Users are worried about cyber threats but do little to protect themselves:

  • Treat your mobile device as a mini-computer and install antivirus
  • Track your bank account
  • Enforce an effective password policy (8-10 characters)
  • Learn how to remote wipe your devices
  • Change default passwords
  • Be aggressive when updating and patching
  • Think before you click
  • Guard your personal data
  • Be careful when using free Wi-Fi hotspots and cloud storage
  • Above all else, safeguard yourself with a Cyber Insurance policy

Technology moves at a rapid pace. There really isn’t any way to avoid being online in 2015 and in the near future we will probably be even more intertwined and connected to cyber space. One needs to accept the hazards of progress in cyber space along with the benefits, meaning it is every consumers responsibility to educate themselves and their families about the risks. Users, particularly females, have to approach any online interactions with at least the same degree of caution they do with physical ones

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