Celebrate Your Own Cybersecurity Women’s Day!

To honor International Women’s Day, here are some ways to empower your own cybersecurity.

Several universities around the world have created Cyber Security Women’s Day to teach women about tech. On International Women’s Day (March 8th), we encourage you to expand this concept and take your online safety into your own hands, just as women in marches take to the streets and occupy physical spaces without fear.

Women can be targets of cybercriminals, cyberstalking, cyberbullying and much more. We’ve covered some basic digital crimes you should know about and what proactive ways to take charge of your online life.

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How Does Cyberstalking Affect Women?
Internet users have been targeting women in defamatory and humiliating ways since the inception of the web, and social media has only made things worse in recent years. There are many cyberstalkers out there who constantly monitor what a woman is doing, while also contacting them frequently in the hopes of initiating a relationship or in vain hope of trying to keep a dead one going. Sometimes these situations turn into full-blown harassment, with lewd, offensive, or threatening comments being leveled at women.

There are also online predators who seek out ways to exploit women, including those who share vulnerable images or videos of women online with the intent of causing them harm. Such a crime is punishable by law, but even bringing justice to these perpetrators is often not enough to heal the pain that it causes women who deserve to have a harassment-free digital life like they do in their physical surroundings.

Cyberbullying and Phishing Scams Are Real Problems
A group of seven adults between the ages of 21 and 25 went undercover to a high school to discover what teenagers are like these days. One common problem that they discovered is cyberbullying and the pain it causes the victims. While bullying has always existed, the presence of the Internet makes it easy for cyberbullying to exist around the clock. Some teenage girls who’ve been victims of cyberbullying have succumbed to depression or worse.  

Another common issue is phishing scams that target women, some of which are romance scams where a website lists women as being a 100% match of a potential partner. After talking to the person for a while, the prospective partner will then ask for a large sum of money as a loan to get out of a difficult situation. Avoid these scams at all costs.

How Can You Protect Yourself?
For cyberbullying, parents and teachers have developed programs to mitigate this problem but responsibility also lies in empowering young women to be strong, confident and practice self-love throughout those difficult years.

Protection can be a frustrating exercise for women who are stalked online. But a good rule is to shut down sharing settings on your social accounts, never engage with a cyberstalker, and keep detailed records of any stalking incidents to share with the authorities.

Since phishing or malware attacks are a reality, women are encouraged to keep a close eye on their security features in apps, and then employ something like dfndr security which can scan your Android phone for viruses and malware, or detect malicious links with advanced anti-hacking technology before you even click on one.

Thankfully, some developers have created apps that help women protect themselves from being the victims of physical attacks. One such app is Lifeline Response, which tracks a woman’s movements and calls the police instantly if something happens. Users place their thumb on the screen while using it, and if they take their thumb off, an alarm sounds.

In some cases, the app can ensure that police respond in just over a minute. Lifeline Response costs about $5 a month and it is available on Android.

Contact the Authorities After a Cyberattack
One way you can report an online criminal act is through Homeland Security’s ‘Report Cyber Incidents’ page. You can also use the Law Enforcement Cyber Center to report cyber attacks, in addition to contacting your local authorities and launching an investigative case.

With the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, women’s voices have never been stronger. Right now is the time to take a stake in your physical and online worlds by making sweeping changes that will reverberate for future generations of young girls and women worldwide.