The Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE) movement has made significant progress in raising awareness about the rights of the LGBTQ community and the issues they face. Like many marginalized communities, one of those issues is bullying and cyberbullying in particular. In a recent survey by the Anti Defamation League, 64% of the LGBTQ respondents said they’d been harassed online. LGBTQ-identifying individuals are also more likely to suffer from severe forms of online harassment such as the online distribution of humiliating photos, lies, and falsehoods.
Furthermore, a recent survey on cyber bullying reported that 73% of LGBTQ individuals have experienced abuse online and 50% have experienced sexual harassment online. Other forms of cyberbullying include trolling, exclusion, outing, cyberstalking, and more. Nor are these threats limited to certain regions; cyber threats to LGBTQ individuals are a global problem, affecting LGBTQ communities worldwide.
Digital threats don’t stop at cyberbullying
Yet, digital threats to the LGBTQ community are not limited to cyberbullying. Many dating apps that are popular with the LGBTQ community, for example, are associated with a high degree of security risks. The OkCupid, Grindr, SCRUFF, and HER dating platforms have known security risks that have put their members’ data in danger of compromise. In fact, online dating platforms have a history of being hacked. Back in 2012, an Australian hacker managed to expose the personal information of hundreds of thousands of users on the popular LGBTQ dating site, Grindr. Nine years later, the attacks on LGBTQ dating sites continue. In April 2021, the gay dating app, Manhunt, was hacked and over 600,000 users were affected.
Once compromised, the data, which includes account credentials, profile details, and information about personal interests and habits, can be sold for profit on the Dark Web, used to publicly embarrass the owner of the data, or used for identity theft, extortion, catphishing, and more. Sometimes the attacks lead to irreparable damage to family relationships, employment, and friendships. Furthermore, the exposure of this data can be life threatening for LGBTQ-identifying individuals that live in regions where their lifestyle is stigmatized or illegal. Not surprisingly, 27% of LGBTQ individuals say they feel unsafe online.
Taking cyber protection to a new level
Preventing cyber attacks and online harassment can only be achieved with digital security, and digital security starts at home with the cybersecurity measures listed below:
-- Install antivirus (AV) software. Install AV software to detect and block malware, viruses, ransomware, and other cyberthreats. Look for one with camera and microphone protection that can stop hackers from spying on private conversations.
-- Follow best password practices. Create unique passwords that are at least 10 characters long and made up of upper and lowercase alphanumeric characters and non-alphanumeric characters. And never share passwords.
-- Keep your software updated. Don’t ignore software updates. They often include patches for software vulnerabilities. Also, make sure the AV software you install updates automatically so that it uses the most current virus database.
-- Avoid public WiFi. Hackers can use the open nature of the network to capture your email address, phone numbers, credit card details, and other private information. If you must connect to a public WiFi, use a virtual private network (VPN).
-- Review your privacy settings and policies. Check your privacy settings on social networks and adjust them to security levels that are comfortable for you. And before you download an app, review its privacy policies to understand how and what personal data is accessed and shared.
-- Secure your phone. Use a passcode or touchID, if available, to secure your phone. Proactively manage which applications have access to your location and when your location services are turned on.
-- Share cautiously. Never share personal information or images unless you’re okay with them being shared with large numbers of people.
-- Connect carefully. Be careful about connecting with people online that you don’t know. Not everyone is who they claim to be; some may just be trying to scam or victimize you.
PRIDES: Personal Rights in Defense**, Education,** and Security
While anyone that uses the Internet is at risk of cyber attacks, marginalized communities like the LGBTQ community are at an even greater risk. This reality underscores the urgent need for members of this community to be cyber aware and cyber secure. Perhaps instead of PRIDE for Personal Rights in Defense and Education, in today’s digital world, a more appropriate acronym is PRIDES: Personal Rights in Defense, Education, and Security.