Gendering The Cyber World: Women and Girls Safety online

Like in the real world, women are more often exposed to cybercrime than men.
Cyber-violence and exploitation in Lebanon is becoming increasingly more serious; more than 100 cases of online violence have been reported to the authorities monthly by women and girls. Harassment, bullying, sexual abuse, and stalking are all issues that are as real online as they are offline.
How to stay safe online?
Prevention is always the best medicine! Social behavior is key!

What is Cyber Security?

It is an online process, culture and system designed to prevent all types of online threats. These dangers might be caused by humans, by technological challenges or by malware or viruses when logging in to unsafe websites, logging in to a publicly accessible internet connection (Wi-Fi), suspicious links, phishing links, unsecured apps or documents.
Different people call it different things, such as: digital safety, e-safety, online safety or internet safety. They all mean the same thing. That is a series of safe practices which we follow while surfing the internet to protect us from various online attacks and/or criminal activities.

Cyber Safety Teaches Us:
How to use information and communication technologies (ICT) responsibly;
How to be secure and protect ourselves online;
How to protect our emotional well-being;
How to back up and secure our information or data such as research and personal details.

Facts and Statistics

Ada Lovelace, a British mathematician from the 19th century. She is nicknamed the “first computer programmer” because she was a pioneer in drafting coding technology.
Elizabeth Feinler AKA Jake! Was one of the pioneers of the ARPAnet. She led the team that organized the information system. Among her achievements is the development of top level domains known as schemes: .com; .edu; .org; .net; .gov; .mil.
Radia Perlman is called the “mother of the internet” for her tremendous contribution in the development of the network and holds more than 80 patents in her field.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the worldwide Internet user penetration rates are higher for men than for women in all regions of the world.
According to Intel, 25 percent fewer women than men have access to the internet.
The internet can generate tangible benefits for women in developing countries, such as jobs and education opportunities.
Social norms can block women from accessing and using information communication technology (ICT).
Female online gamers are equal in number to male gamers, but they face more sexism and sexual harassment.
Studies show that doubling the number of women and girls online would create an estimated additional USD13 to USD 18 billion in GDP across developing countries.
According to UNESCO, 34-57% of STEM graduates in Arab countries are women, which is much higher than in universities in the US or Europe.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will witness a higher need for female professionals in the field of cybersecurity by 2022.
The cybersecurity field has a massive labor shortage.
Women represent only 20 percent of the global cybersecurity labor force.

Most of the cybercrime braches are caused by human error.
The most severe cybercrime concerns in the MENA includes data exposure, cyber terrorism, hacking and ransomware, with a lack of proper understanding of what InfoSec is.

Measures and Tips to Stay Safe

Cherish your privacy, do not share personal or sensitive information on social media.
Protect your password and make it random, using different signs; a different password for each social media platform or online accounts. Change it every two to three months, avoiding children’s, spouse, or pet names and significant dates in your password; do not share it with anyone and do not use it on other people’s devices.
Update all operating systems on your computers, laptops, tablets and smartphone regularly.
Beware of phishing links which can be sent via emails, SMS, inboxes and VoIP apps (voice & video communications). In the time of Corona, numerous scams and malicious links re being sent. Always check the spelling of the link and ask the senders about it if you know them.
Avoid any contact with people you don’t know on social media.
Read the terms of use and the privacy policy of the websites and applications you use.
Activate the Two-Factor Authentication.
Use encrypted apps such as signal and jitsi for communication.
Remember nothing is really for free online.
Cover your camera with tape all the time.
Do not connect to public, open Wi-Fi without a proper virtual private network (VPN).
Do not click on websites if there is no ‘s’ in the hypertext transfer protocol (https) or link. S stands for secure and a lock symbol is added next to it.
Avoid infodemics by checking the credibility of the website, the source of the information and always rechecking the validity of its content.
Clean your digital finger print and delete unnecessary data from your device.
Use a parental guidance application for your smart phones and the ones of your children.

Tips for parents

The Internet can have a positive and empowering digital impact on our life, it is made easier within one click and knowledge is made more accessible for all. But this dynamic environment can also be harmful for girls. Internet safety or “e-safety” for children can be an unexpected challenge, especially if your girls are native learners with well-developed skills in using their devices and navigating online in ways that we as parents never even imagined possible when we were kids.

Questions to ask yourself

Are you familiar with which online apps your girls are using; have you tested them?
Do you know if your girls have ever been bullied or harassed online?
Do they visit porn sites with their electronic devices?
Do you use a parental guidance application?
Do you allow them to be on social media platforms if they are under 13; or under 16?
Do you know who your girls are talking to online?

What Can You Do?
As of a certain age, Respect your girls right to access internet and emphasize this right to them while advising about the importance of their cyber safety and security.
Start by talking to your girls about concerns and risks they might face in their online lives. Remind them, they should not talk to strangers.
Explain why privacy matters and which pictures and other material are safe to be posted online. Most of the women and girls do not know that online privacy matters for their safety.
Review together their privacy and security settings. Advise them not respond to bullies and stalkers emails and messages. Teach them to ignore them, block and or delete them from their lists.
Make them trust you and let them know that they can share any problem they are facing online by praising their willingness to talk. Whatever happens online, remember not to be angry with your girls.
Explain that good friends will not force them to fulfill unpleasant tasks.
Educate yourself digitally. You should know as much as your girls! Link your device with a parental guidance application. Such apps aim to protect and not to censor.
Unplug! Have a day or designated period of time without computers or smartphones. This is not a punishment and you should also do it.

Dating and Falling in Love Online

Dating apps are increasingly becoming the meeting place of choice. This was accentuated during the Corona lockdown. Millions of users worldwide go to online dating platforms. Numerous powerful tools can match you with your potential significant other. Some search for and find long-term commitment. Others look for short-term friendships. But the number of tragic outcomes is also on the rise. Remember, these apps and sites can lead to love or match you with an ominous other, the digital harasser. Data algorithms claim to have a more accurate compatibility level when finding you the partner of your dreams than you might have in real life. But they have a dark side, which is similar to violence in the real world. Online dating scams are on the rise! Protect your right to romance by taking simple precautionary steps.

Tips, Statistics and Facts of Online dating

Online dating companies are currently working on developing new tools to help combat harassment and threats while using their platforms. These mechanisms provide features for the victims to report abusive behaviors (such as offensive name-calling, physical threats or harassment over a sustained period of time, sexual harassment, purposeful embarrassment, and stalking).
Reports show that in the US alone people lost around 201 million USD through online romance scams in 2019. Victims quite often experience emotional distress and huge financial losses.
Scammers might ask you to deposit money or send it as a gift or they might send you money dragging you into a money laundering scheme.
Be sure to read safety measures provided by the dating app or website: Most women and girls underestimate the importance of online privacy measures for their safety.
Women represent the majority of those affected by romance scams.
Do your online research, check the messages being sent to you by conducting reverse image searches of your partner’s pictures. Don’t automatically click on pictures or links sent to you before you verify them and never share your personal credit card information.
Young female users of online dating sites are twice as likely as men to report that someone on a dating site or app has called them an offensive name (44% vs. 23%) or threatened to physically harm them (19% vs. 9%).
Social media platforms are the most common venue for online dating harassment. It is also common via text messages or messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Unfortunately many men stereotype women who open online dating accounts as someone ‘just looking for sex’. Be safe and protect your right to romance from these predators!
Online romance imposter scams occur all the time and they are rarely reported because of shame. Being taken advantage of is not shameful; not protecting yourself is.