A new survey from Kaspersky reveals shocking data about the extent of digital abuse, with almost a quarter of respondents (23%) had experienced some form of online stalking from a person they were newly dating.

One-third (34%) of respondents believe that Googling/checking social media accounts of a person you had started dating as a form of due diligence is acceptable and 41% admitted to doing so when they started dating someone.

According to the study – which interviewed 1 000 people in 21 countries around the world – online daters are keen to take steps to protect themselves in the quest for love.

However, 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% having 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%). More of those currently dating had experienced violence or abuse compared to those in a long-term relationship (48% versus 37%).

In fact, 34% of respondents said they worried about the prospect of being stalked online, and female respondents being slightly more concerned at the prospect than males (36% were worried compared to 31% of male respondents).

“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,” says David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky. “While 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.”

Kaspersky offers tips for staying safe whilst dating online:

* 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 own 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.