Kaspersky: One in Five People Affected by Digital Stalking

Kaspersky: One in Five People Affected by Digital Stalking

42% of users report violence or abuse by their own partner. 17% have been filmed or photographed without their consent.

An international survey by IT security specialist Kaspersky shows that the risks in online dating are increasing worldwide. Also in Germany. 18 per cent of respondents in this country have already been affected by digital stalking. Almost half (42 per cent) report IT-supported forms of violence or abuse by a partner.

Location tracking, unauthorised photos and stalkerware

In general, various forms of abuse in relationships appear to be an issue: Nearly half (42 per cent) of respondents in Germany report some form of violence or abuse by a current or former partner. For example, 17 per cent of respondents have been sent unwanted emails or messages and in 12 per cent of cases they have been filmed or photographed without their consent.

Furthermore, one in ten (9 per cent) admit that their location has been tracked, their social media accounts or emails have been hacked (6 per cent) or someone has installed stalkerware on their devices without their consent (6 per cent).

Women more frequently affected

According to the survey, there is a clear gender-specific difference when it comes to abuse. Compared to male respondents, women are more likely to report violence or abuse (44 per cent compared to 39 per cent). In addition, people who are currently in a relationship have experienced violence or abuse more often than those who are in a long-term relationship (58 per cent compared to 38 per cent).

Concerns about being stalked online were expressed by 29 per cent of respondents, with female respondents having slightly more concerns in this regard than their male counterparts (31 per cent compared to 26 per cent).

“The opportunities offered by the internet and a networked world are also associated with numerous dangers. These include easy access to traceable data, which favours the misuse of this data in the form of stalking,” comments David Emm, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky. “While this behaviour is by no means the fault of the people being stalked, they should take steps to minimise the risks. Verifying their online identities is a good step, but users should consider what information, passwords or data they share with others and the implications of this information falling into the wrong hands.

“Online dating and virtual spaces can be challenging; it’s important that social media and dating apps introduce verification processes to help ensure that users’ profiles match their actual photos,” said Emma Pickering from UK charity Refuge. “To my knowledge, Bumble is the only dating app currently using this type of verification. I would like to see others take the same kind of security measures. In addition, safety guides and resources should be available online in multiple languages to provide vulnerable people with the support they need without having to register with an app.”

Recommendations for safe online dating

Kaspersky advises users of dating portals, dating sites and dating apps to take these five precautions:

1. Use unique and complex passwords and never share them with third parties.

2. If something seems too good to be true, it might be – if in doubt, check it out.

3. Always check your own digital privacy.

4. Think before you disclose anything, because data and information shared on the internet can make a person vulnerable.

5. Install a comprehensive cyber security or VPN solution that offers extensive protection.

Design of the study

On behalf of Kaspersky, Arlington Research conducted 21,000 online interviews between 3 and 17 January 2024. People aged 16 and over were interviewed in the UK, Spain, Serbia, Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, France and Greece, the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, Asia-Pacific: China, Singapore, Russia, India and Malaysia; 1000 of them were from Germany. All of them were either in a long-term relationship at the time (62 per cent), were dating someone (16 per cent) or were not currently in a relationship but had been in one in the past (21 per cent).