Research conducted by Kaspersky Lab in conjunction with B2B International found that 73% of women faced malware threats compared to 65% of men while 22% of women have suffered a financial loss as a result of cybercrime versus 19% of men. These statistics demonstrate that cybercrime targeted against women is on the rise.
This is according to Candice Sutherland, Business Development Consultant at SHA Specialist Underwriters, who says often the aim of cybercrime is to intentionally harm the victim using technology and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms, e-mails 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,” she says.
Women are the primary targets of cyber-stalking and digital voyeurism too, which is the practice of spying on people engaged in intimate behaviours, such as undressing, sexual activity or other actions considered to be of a private nature, says Sutherland. “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, she adds. “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 make this easy, and tools such as spyware and GPS (global positioning systems) are used to track their target’s every move. Computers and the internet allow predators to exploit women and girls anonymously and easily – at the click of a button.”
Sutherland says that it is vital for women to become aware of cybercrime and the various dangers that come with it. “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.”
Sutherland provides the below tips for women to protect themselves against cybercrime:
* Treat your mobile device as a mini-computer and install antivirus;
* Track your bank account;
* Enforce an effective password policy (8-10 characters with numbers, capital and symbols where possible);
* 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 WiFi hotspots and cloud storage.
“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 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 consumer’s 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,” Sutherland adds.