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Women, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds bear a disproportionate burden when it comes to the impact of cyber crime, according to a new study that appears to show underlying trends in digitally enabled crime are mirroring the digital divide in society.
The data in Malwarebytes’ new global report The demographics of cybercrime, which was produced alongside US non-profits Digitunity and the Cybercrime Support Network, found clear evidence that demographics play a big role in how often people are targeted by cyber criminals and online fraudsters, and their emotional response to becoming a victim.
“Understanding the impact that cyber crime has on vulnerable people or populations, particularly women and minorities, across the world is critical as online access becomes essential to modern life,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes. “The disparity between populations feeling safe online and the emotional impact of threats on already vulnerable communities is unacceptable.
“The work Digitunity and Cybercrime Support Network are doing to educate and empower communities cannot be understated. As an industry, we need to work together to make safe internet access available to everyone, regardless of income or their ability to pay.”
Although obviously no group is immune to cyber crime, women were significantly more likely than men to say they didn’t feel safe online, with 35% of women surveyed saying they didn’t feel safe, compared with just 27% of men. More than half of women, 53%, said they did not feel private online, compared with 47% of men.
Women also reported receiving more phishing or otherwise suspicious text messages from unknown numbers, and more instances of having their social media accounts hacked, as well as being significantly more likely to be victims of cyber stalking or revenge porn attacks.
The situation for BAME people was similarly troubling, with only 38% reporting that they felt safe online, compared with 44% of white respondents. The survey did not specifically address issues around online racial harassment, although this is undoubtedly a factor in these numbers.
People of colour were also far more likely to receive phishing texts – often with targeted lures linked to social justice causes such as Black Lives Matter. They were also far more likely than white people to have their social media accounts hacked, or fall victim to identity theft or credit card fraud, and were more likely to feel a financial impact compared to every other group represented in the data.
“New adopters of technology, particularly those who may have been on the wrong side of the digital divide, are disproportionately more vulnerable to online threats and bad actors,” said Scot Henley, executive director of Digitunity.
“Through our partnership with Malwarebytes, tens of thousands of devices made available to low-income families will be loaded with robust antivirus and antimalware protection. Having this critical layer of security will go a long way to ensure adoption and success.”