A new survey, commissioned by Kaspersky of 21000 people worldwide, reveals shocking data about the extent of digital abuse. Almost a quarter of respondents (23%) had experienced some form of online stalking from a person they were newly dating. A third (34%) of respondents believe that Googling/checking social media accounts of a person you had started dating as a form of due diligence is acceptable and 41% admitted to doing so when they started dating someone.According to the study – which interviewed 1000 people in 21 countries around the world – online daters are keen to take steps to protect themselves in the quest for love. However, people are still vulnerable to an alarming rise in stalking and abuse this Valentine’s day from risks posed by location settings, data privacy and more broadly, oversharing.The types of abuse are varied, with well over a third (39%) of respondents having reported some form of violence or abuse from a current or previous partner: 16% of respondents had been sent unwanted emails or messages and perhaps most concerningly, 13% had been filmed or photographed without their consent. A further 10% admitted they had had their location tracked, 10% that their social media accounts or emails had been hacked, and worryingly, 7% having had stalkerware installed on their devices without their consent.Proportionally more female respondents had experienced some form of violence or abuse compared to male respondents (42% versus 36%). More of those currently dating had experienced violence or abuse compared to those in a long-term relationship (48% versus 37%). In fact, 34% of respondents said they worried about the prospect of being stalked online, and female respondents being slightly more concerned at the prospect than males (36% were worried compared to 31% of male respondents).“The Internet of things, or connected world is brilliant and offers a myriad of possibilities. But with opportunity comes threats and one of those threats of a connected world is the ease of access to traceable data which leaves us vulnerable to abuse”, commented David Emm, Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky. “Whilst the blame for these horrific behaviours never lies with stalking victims, unfortunately there is still a burden upon them to take steps to minimise risks. I think it’s great that people are taking steps to verify identities online, but would encourage people to just stop and do a quick sense check on any information, passwords or data they share, to just think through how that information could be used in nefarious hands.”Kaspersky has gathered some top tips for staying safe whilst dating online below, for more details, please take a look at our safe dating guide or for further ways to stay safe from Stalkerware, visit https://stopstalkerware.org/resources/Keep passwords to yourself and make sure they are complex and uniqueIf it seems too good to be true, it might just be – if in doubt check!Take a moment to check your own digital privacyThink before you share – the internet has long memory and sharing too much too soon can leave you vulnerableCreate a ‘safe plan’ if you move from digital to real worldsKaspersky works with experts and organizations in the field of domestic violence, ranging from victim support services and perpetrator programs through to research and government agencies, to share knowledge and support both professionals and victims. Kaspersky is one of the co-founders of the Coalition Against Stalkerware, an international group dedicated to tackling stalkerware and combating domestic violence. Since 2021, Kaspersky has been a consortium partner of the EU project DeStalk, co-funded by the Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Program of the European Union. Kaspersky has also launched and maintains TinyCheck, a free, safe and easy-to-use tool to check devices for stalkerware and monitoring apps.Survey DetailsIn January 2024 Arlington Research, on behalf of Kaspersky conducted 21,000 online interviews, 1,000 in each of the following 21 countries: The UK, Germany, 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. Respondents were aged 16 years and over. All were either in a long-term relationship (62% of the sample), dating someone (16%) or not currently dating/in a relationship but had been in the past (21%).