Women’s Guide To Cyber Safety 2022

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Women’s Guide To Cyber Safety 2022

Julia SJ

Last Updated by Julia SJ on February 01, 2022

It’s no secret that women experience the world in a very different way from their male counterparts. Women have been subjected to harassment, violence, oppression, and just generally uncomfortable situations that few (if any) men have had to deal with. According to The Human Rights Campaign, this reality is exacerbated for women of color, trans women, and women with disabilities.

Growing up, most of us learn strategies and adopt habits that keep us safe as we go about our daily lives. However, these dangerous situations we encounter are not exclusive to the “real world” now that the digital sphere has become such an integral part of our culture and economy. The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a study reporting 85% of women worldwide had witnessed online violence against other women. In the EU alone, 10% of women report having experienced cyber-harassment since age 15.

Cyber harassment is an umbrella term that encompasses many different things such as inappropriate or threatening comments and photos (ranging from name-calling and dick pics to murder threats and revenge porn), cyberstalking, doxxing (personal information is shared publicly), catfishing (impersonating someone else for romantic purposes), grooming (befriending to exploit someone), and other behaviors intended to cause discomfort or harm. The effects of cyber harassment can be debilitating and have real-life consequences such as low self-esteem, insomnia, depression, and suicidal thoughts. That’s why, as a woman, it’s essential that you have the strategies and tools you need to stay safe online in today’s world.

Historically, women and girls have been both the targets and scapegoats of online harassment; we’re singled out and then victim-blamed as though we asked to be persecuted. The cycle has been vicious and endless, but not anymore. It’s time for us to take control and put an end to the attacks on women online. Fortunately, the ever-growing awareness of cyber violence against women has brought with it some useful tools and strategies for preventing and addressing online harassment. You have a right to feel safe in your own skin and participate in the world in all of its forms. With this cyber safety guide, you’ll have the tools you need to minimize, prevent, and handle the many different forms of online harassment.

How to Protect Yourself from Social Media Harassment

Almost everyone uses social media these days. It’s not only used for personal enjoyment and keeping up with far-away friends and family but also as a valuable business and marketing tool. Social media, however, is also where the majority of online harassment takes place due to the empowering sense of anonymity many people feel online. The most frequent social media users worldwide are 15-year-old girls, and unfortunately, this is also the age in which most girls report their first encounter with online harassment. While young girls typically learn better strategies for managing online harassment as they age and continue using social media, 42% of women’s behavioral response toward harassment is still simply to ignore it.

Social media harassment can take many forms: aggressive comments, persistent and inappropriate DMs, unsolicited lewd photos or messages, and so much more. Women everywhere, however, have empowered themselves with social media to call attention to these issues and more, mainly through the #metoo movement. Beyond drawing attention to the violence and maltreatment individual women experience, the movement has awakened the world to the larger systemic issues we face as part of the female experience.

This experience is not limited to women who are assigned female at birth, either. In fact, trans women are even more at risk for incurring violence on and offline. Ditch the Label, an anti-bullying charity, helped conduct a study over three and a half years, in which they found 15% of the 10 million transgender-related comments during that period were transphobic. Online transphobia and harassment towards trans women often involves intentional misgendering, deadnaming, and transphobic slurs, all of which take a significant toll on trans women’s mental health and self-esteem.

Just as you have a right to feel safe in person, you likewise deserve to feel secure online. Protecting yourself from social media harassment doesn’t mean you have to delete your accounts and lose touch with your network, though. There are several things you can do to stay safe on social media.

How to Stay Safe on Social Media



How to Stay Safe on Social Media


Twitter is one of the most popular social media platforms. It’s a site where people feel free to express themselves and connect with others who share their interests. Politicians, celebrities, and millions of everyday people stay in touch with what’s going on in the world through their Twitter feeds. While the public nature of Twitter is partly what makes it so engaging, that’s also why it’s a cesspool for harassment.

Amnesty International has long criticized Twitter for its lax response to violence and abuse towards women. Despite some minor progress over the last few years, the fact is the company isn’t doing enough to protect women, especially women of racial, ethnic, or other minority groups. However, while Twitter’s history is bleak, there are several ways you can protect yourself on the site if you choose to use it. Here are a few easy ways to stay safe on Twitter:

  1. Protect your tweets: You can “protect your tweets” by going to your privacy and safety settings on Twitter. If your tweets are protected, only your (approved) followers can see what you post. However, just because your tweets are protected doesn’t guarantee your tweets won’t be shared by followers posting screenshots of your tweets or showing someone your profile from their account. Here’s how you can protect your tweets:

    Screenshot of Twitter Settings Screenshot of Twitter Privacy and Safety settings, showing how to protect your tweets.

    Step 1: Go to your account settings and click on “Privacy and Safety.”


    Screenshot of Twitter Settings: Audience and Tagging Screenshot of the "Protect your Tweets" setting on Twitter.


    Step 2: Click on “Audience and tagging.” Then check the box next to “Protect your Tweets.”

  2. Create two profiles: To separate your professional and personal information, consider creating two separate accounts. That way, if you want your personal information to stay private and open to a smaller following, you can protect those tweets. Then, you can open up your professional Twitter account to the public, attracting followers and growing your network.
  3. Make your settings more private: In your privacy and safety settings on Twitter, you can prevent others from tagging you in photos, manage who can send you direct messages, and control your discoverability. You get to decide your account settings based on your preferences and the purpose of your account. You can learn more about how to apply safety and security settings on Twitter’s website.

    Screenshot of Twitter Privacy and Safety Settings Screenshot of Twitter Privacy and Safety Settings with arrows drawing attention to the "Audience and Tagging" and "Mute and Block" settings.

    From the “Privacy and safety” tab in your Twitter settings, you can strengthen your security in several different ways.

  4. Mute, block, and report others—If you want to limit interactions and discoverability with a specific profile, you can use the mute, block, and report features. Muting someone is an excellent tool for when you want to stop seeing someone’s tweets, but you don’t want to officially unfollow them. Blocking an account prevents the blocked user from discovering, viewing, or interacting with your tweets. And lastly, if someone is harassing you or violating Twitter’s terms of use, you can report their account, and Twitter will review the problem and take action.

    Screenshot on How to Block on Twitter Screenshot with instructions on how to block someone from a tweet or from a profile on Twitter.

    Step-by-step instructions on how to block someone on Twitter from a tweet or a profile.

  5. Remove Twitter’s access to your location—Twitter uses your location to personalize your experience on the site. This helps them provide suggestions on who to follow, who should follow you, etc. Sharing your location, however, can be dangerous. You can opt-out of location sharing with Twitter by going to “Location Information” in your settings.

    Screenshot of Location Information Settings on Twitter Screenshot showing the Twitter setting to add or remove all location information attached to tweets.

    You can easily remove all location information attached to your tweets.



Facebook cyber safety


Pew Research has determined 2.8 billion people use Facebook monthly. That’s over one-third of the global population! The sheer number of users is a testament to Facebook’s power and influence, so it’s especially critical that you know how you can stay safe while using the platform.

Facebook is used by people of all ages and can be a great way to keep in touch with grandma, your college best friend across the country, or the foreign exchange student from Paris who used to live with you. Facebook is also one of the most dangerous social media sites for women because of its popularity and how easy it is for someone to create a fake profile. Review your settings by performing a Privacy Checkup on your Facebook account:

  1. Limit sharing: Worried something you post will spread beyond your Friends List? You can turn off sharing so your friends can’t share your posts with their friends. This isn’t a foolproof way to ensure unwanted viewers don’t see your posts, but it does make it less likely.

    Screenshot of Profile and Tagging Settings on Facebook Screenshot of Profile and Tagging Settings on Facebook

    You can disable your friends from sharing things you post to your Facebook story, too.

  2. Manage your Friends List: Be mindful of whose friend requests you accept. Ensure that you know the person before accepting a friend request. If their name and profile picture don’t ring a bell and you have no mutual friends, it’s probably not a good idea to accept.

    Screenshot of Custom Lists Settings on Facebook. Screenshot of Custom Lists Settings on Facebook.

    You can add Friends to premade or custom lists based on what you want each group to have access to.
  3. Choose your audience: Facebook allows you to control who can see your posts: friends, friends of friends, only you, or everyone. You can create a default audience for each part of your profile, then change audiences for individual posts if you prefer.

    Screenshot of Privacy Checkup Settings and Options on Facebook. Screenshot of Privacy Checkup Settings and Options on Facebook.

    A quick Privacy Checkup on Facebook allows you to check and change your audience and other security settings.
  4. Turn off tagging: You can control who can tag you in posts and who can view posts you’re tagged in. Limiting tags ensures that a friend’s decision to tag you in a post doesn’t compromise your security. You can also set your privacy settings to where you must review tags before they are visible to others.

    Screenshot of Privacy Checkup Settings and Options on Facebook. Screenshot of Privacy Checkup Settings and Options on Facebook.

    Turn on reviewing so that you must approve or deny tags from others. For instance, in the image below, before they appear. Also, consider limiting who can view the content you’re tagged in.
  5. Block and report: Being harassed by someone on your Friends List? Block them. This will immediately remove them from your Friends List and keep them from viewing anything on your profile. You can also easily report harassment. Be sure to provide context and feedback in your report so that Facebook has the information needed to handle the situation. Here’s Facebook’s “help” page for blocking and reporting.

    Screenshot of How to Block on Facebook Screenshot with instructions on how to block another user on Facebook.

    Blocking someone on Facebook is an easy 5-step process.

Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok


Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok cyber safety


Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok have blown up over the last decade. Sharing photos and videos with friends, family, and followers is fun and helps us stay connected. People have even made their livelihood off of these platforms. TikTok, in particular, has really taken off as a fun social media platform for creative videos. Like more established social media sites, TikTok is also a frequent site for harassment, cyberbullying, and inappropriate content. Fortunately, best practices for staying safe on TikTok are similar to other social sites.

Both Snapchat and Instagram have features where photos and videos disappear after a certain amount of time. Because these messages and posts disappear, people often send things through Snapchat or post stuff on their Instagram stories that they wouldn’t if it were more permanent. Needless to say, disappearing content is one of many methods aggressors use to harass women online, so it’s important to know what you can do to stay safe if you use these platforms.

  1. Make your account private—On TikTok and Instagram, you can make your account private, so people have to request to follow you (and be accepted) in order to see your photos. On Snapchat, you can change your settings for who can contact you. Changing these settings from “everyone” to just “friends” keeps unknown users from sending you unwanted messages. If you need additional help changing your privacy settings on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, check out these “how-to” pages.

    Screenshot of Instagram Privacy Settings Screenshot of Instagram privacy settings, specifically settings which determine who can direct message (DM) you and comment on your posts.

    On TikTok, you can make your account private and choose who can send you DMs or comment on your videos.


    Screenshot of Privacy Settings on Instagram Screenshot of privacy settings on Instagram, including message controls.


    On Instagram, you can make your account private and choose who can message you.

  2. Choose your audience—You can create a “close friends” list on Instagram, limiting specific posts to only your tightest circle. Snapchat doesn’t have this exact same feature, but you can control who receives and can view each of your snaps. TikTok, similarly, allows you to choose who can and can’t view and comment on your posts. Selecting your audience is a great way to distinguish posts that are for your general following and those that are too personal to share beyond your closest friends.

    Screenshot on How to Create a Close Friends List on Instagram Screenshot on how to create a close friends list on Instagram.

    Creating a “Close Friends” list on Instagram is easy and allows you to be selective with your audience.
  3. Disable activity status—Disabling your activity status keeps others from knowing when you are active on Instagram. Aggressors are much more likely to reach out to you when they know you are active online, so keeping your activity status private is a great way to stay safe and minimize unwanted interactions.

    Screenshot of Activity Status Settings on Instagram Screenshot of activity status settings on Instagram where users can decide whether others can see when they're online.

    Instagram allows you to hide whether you’re active and if the people you’re messaging can see when you’re in the same chat.
  4. Avoid sharing revealing information—They say a picture is worth a thousand words! Be mindful of what you are revealing about yourself in photos or videos posted online. Your location, personal details, and circumstances are all types of information that others may exploit. Not only can people deduce information from your images, but digital programs can as well.
  5. Don’t use geotags—Geotags indicate your location or the location in which a photo or video was taken. The danger of geotagging is both in its telling of where you are (away) and where you are not (home). A person with either piece of information may use it to stalk you or your home. Avoiding the use of geotags helps prevent online harassment from turning into in-person conflict.

How to Safely Share Photos


How to Safely Share Photos


Being able to share photos with friends and family is one of the many perks of the internet. Sharing images online allows you to instantly show your grandma in a different country the photos you took on your honeymoon or send a friend from college a funny cat meme that reminded you of them. There are tons of ways to share pictures nowadays, like through the Cloud, on social media, via email, or through apps, making the process so convenient it’s almost thoughtless.

Remember that old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? If not a thousand words, a picture can certainly reveal sensitive information. Individuals can discern plenty from a photo, and now technology is capable of dissecting images. For instance, in the image below for information as well. Here are just some of the available photo analysis technologies:

  1. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) — OCR technology analyzes the structure of images to identify characters, which then becomes recognizable text. For instance, in the image below, OCR technology would discern the text on the sign in the background. In this case, the text reveals a specific location, which can then be used to track down the photo’s subject or other means of cyber harassment.
  2. Face Recognition — Face recognition technology is becoming more and more mainstream. Some of us even use it to unlock our phones! Facial recognition software maps facial structures and compares them with databases of faces to match. If matched, the software user can quickly determine your identity and other personal information available online.
  3. Brand Matching — Logo recognition software like LogoGrab identifies brands, marks, and logos that appear in photos. While this software might seem less invasive than something like face recognition or OCR, the ease with which we can now gather information such as someone’s clothing brand from a photo is both remarkable and a little terrifying.
  4. Label Detection — Software such as Amazon Rekognition can detect labels in images in order to decipher the context of an image. For example, in the image below, label detection software would be able to identify the label “arm” and then determine that there is a person in the photo. Labels are not limited to humans or animals, however. Objects can be detected as well, revealing even more information about the picture and who is in it.
  5. EXIF Information — EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File, and is a generic file format that is essentially how contextual information in an image is stored. Essentially, EXIF is photo metadata. While EXIF information is particularly useful for photographers, it can also contain revealing data such as the setting of the photo, the type of camera used to take the shot, date and time, and even GPS information.


Screenshot of a Photo Analyzed by Various Software Screenshot of a girl standing on a pier with a sign in the background. Elements on the photo are marked with arrows and captions indicating what certain technologies can decipher from each element.


Technology can now analyze images for information you may not realize you’re sharing.

There are always risks involved in sharing photos online, but there are many strategies and safety precautions you can take to mitigate those risks. Here are a few things you can do to share photos more safely online:

  1. Don’t use geotags — Geotags indicate your location or the location in which a photo or video was taken. Geotags are especially common on social media. Sites like Instagram and Facebook allow you to tag your photos with a location, and doing so assigns your image to that tag for others to find. A geotag might even go beyond simply identifying your location. It may suggest to a viewer that you are on vacation and therefore not monitoring your home and possessions. Avoiding the use of geotags helps prevent online harassment from turning into in-person conflict. Here’s how you can remove geotags from Instagram.
  2. Remove EXIF Information — You can’t prevent EXIF data from being automatically added to your photographs, but you can manually edit and remove some of it.

    How to Remove EXIF Information from Photos Screenshot of a photo's EXIF information with a box indicating where to remove properties and personal information.

    Right-click the photo and select “Properties.” From there, click on “Remove Properties and Personal Information.” In the new dialog box, choose “Remove the following properties from this file” and then select the information you wish to remove. Click OK when you are finished.

  3. Get Consent — Often, the discourse around consent involves one’s physical body. Consent, however, also extends to the digital realm as well, particularly when sharing photos of someone else. For example, if I consider posting a picture of my friend and me at the beach, I should ask their permission first. Beyond even posting the picture, getting consent to tag, share, or modify the image also takes their privacy and safety into consideration. If we want others to respect our privacy and cyber security, we must be willing to do the same. This can be especially important when posting photos of children who are not yet able to grant their own consent. Speaking with the parents or guardians before sharing a picture of their child shows respect for the family and the child who is not yet capable of taking control of their own online presence.
  4. Decide Who Can Access the Photos — Social media is perhaps the most common photo sharing method online. Fortunately, most sites give you control over who your audience is.

    Screenshot of Select Audience Settings on Facebook Screenshot of Select Audience Settings on Facebook

    On Facebook, select the … icon, then choose “Edit Audience.” From there, you can decide who can see that particular image.

How to Use Messaging Apps Safely

The internet has come a long way from that screeching dial-up tone and our embarrassing AIM usernames of the early 2000s (if you know, you know). Now, we’re instantly connected to anyone and everyone worldwide through messaging apps and texting. Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Kik, and Discord are popular places for both old and new friends, as they provide easy-to-use platforms that make communication instantaneous. Most messaging apps are more secure than SMS messaging, and this is attracting billions of users to their platforms per year. Just like other online spaces, however, messaging apps have a dark side and pose risks for users, especially young women.

The dangers of messaging apps parallel those of dating apps and social media sites. Inappropriate and graphic comments and photos, catfishing, cyberstalking, and scams are all common problems women encounter on messaging apps. The structure, features, and privacy settings of each app somewhat indicate how difficult it is to confront harassment when it occurs on the platform. Kik, for example, is an entirely anonymous messaging app featuring a high degree of encryption. While these features could be perceived as a win for privacy, they can simultaneously be seen as an antagonist of justice. Horror stories like that of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell’s murder illustrate just how severely harassment can escalate from the app to real life and how difficult it can be for law enforcement to get the information they need to identify suspects or get a conviction.

Discord, originally designed as a communication platform for gamers, now hosts chat rooms for topics outside of gaming such as book clubs, music group fandoms, and more. Like with Kik, there is a degree of anonymity within Discord servers, as users are identified by a chosen username instead of their real name, and minimal personal details are required to make an account. The relative anonymity and the growing popularity of Discord amongst younger age groups have attracted sexual predators to the servers. Forty-year-old Nathan Larson, for example, groomed a 12-year-old girl on Discord and eventually manipulated her into running away with him in the middle of the night.

Despite the risks involved in using any of these apps, messaging apps aren’t inherently bad. So, don’t trash your messaging apps and default to SMS messaging just yet. With the right app and safety strategies, you can communicate confidently and put a stop to harassment before it escalates. You’ll notice by now, though, that many of the best practices for one segment of online life hold true for other virtual spaces as well. Practicing these strategies consistently across all platforms is the strongest way to defend against cyber-harassment and take control of your online presence.

Safety Strategies for Discord


Safety Strategies for Discord


  1. Explicit media content settings—From your Privacy & Safety tab in your User Settings, you can select the degree to which Discord scans and blocks direct messages you receive based on explicit content.

    Screenshot of Safe Direct Messaging settings on Discord Screenshot of Safe Direct Messaging settings on Discord with the "Keep me safe" box checked. This ensures that every message you receive is scanned for explicit content.

    Choosing the “Keep Me Safe” option ensures that every message you receive on Discord is scanned for explicit content.
  2. Friend request settings—When you add someone as a friend, they will be able to see your activity status and message you directly. Choosing your friends carefully is important to staying safe on Discord. Fortunately, Discord allows you to decide who can send you friend requests, so you don’t even have to consider adding someone you don’t know.

    Screenshot of Who Can Add You As A Friend Settings on Discord. Screenshot of Who Can Add You As A Friend Settings on Discord.

    Decide how open you want to be with friend requests. You can even deselect all of these options if you prefer!
  3. Don’t click on unfamiliar links—Like anywhere else online, avoid clicking on links you don’t recognize. Clicking unknown links can quickly turn into a security breach if you’re not careful. If you do decide to click on an unfamiliar link, make sure you trust the source of the link before doing so.
  4. Block harassers—Right-click on a user’s name (desktop) or tap the person’s username and select the three dots (phones and tablets), then choose Block. Simple, but effective.

Signal: The Safest Messaging App

Signal is the messaging app renowned for its privacy and security. It offers end-to-end encryption, which has attracted prominent cyber security figures like Edward Snowden and Bruce Schneier. Only you and the person you’re talking to can view exchanged messages; Signal can’t even access them. Because Signal was designed with security in mind, you don’t have to worry about updating privacy settings—safety is the default. Signal is completely free, available on Apple and Android devices, and only requires a phone number to join. To prevent cyber security threats, Signal is by far the best option.

How to Safely Use Online Forums

Online forums can be valuable community-building spaces where participants from around the world can discuss shared interests, controversial subjects, and more. Humans are naturally social and communal creatures, and connecting with others who we might otherwise never meet is one of the greatest perks of the internet. Beyond discussing shared interests, forums also provide an avenue for people to ask questions and get answers from people who may be experts on the subject or simply have first-hand experience.

As with all other internet spaces, however, online forums are hazardous for women. Reddit, perhaps the most popular discussion platform, is widely known for its crude content, harassment, trolling, and other problems. This isn’t surprising since Reddit is the seventh most popular site in the US and nineteenth worldwide. Historically, the millions of people who flock to the platform find “subreddits” based on their interests, which could include anything from the innocent r/birdswithhands page to people who identify as incels.

Though you might expect people to stick to forums they best identify with, trolls have a long history of invading online spaces not meant for them for the sole purpose of harassing others, most often women and racial minorities. Participants in the r/BlackGirls subreddit experienced racist and misogynistic comments from trolls in what was intended as a safe space for black women to connect. When they started a new subreddit called r/BlackLadies to escape the harassment, the trolls migrated with them. Similarly, the r/rape subreddit was intended to be a safe place for victims of sexual assault. Unfortunately, it saw its fair share of victim-blaming, violent, and otherwise inappropriate comments from trolls as well before Reddit decided to shut it down. Although it has finally taken steps to tackle the issues prevalent across the site, its staff has long been criticized for its emphasis on free speech over the safety of its users, and the problems continue to proliferate as new controversies arise.

Whether you use Reddit, Quora, or another popular online forum platform, the best practices for safety are the same. When it comes to your personal privacy and security, providing as little information about yourself as possible upon signing up is essential. Consider using a burner email service to sign up, and don’t provide your real name and age. If you are experiencing harassment within a forum, block the user (if the site permits) and report them. If the harassment escalates to threats of violence or real-life conflict, consider reaching out to your local law enforcement if you’re able. Provide them with screenshots, logs, and any other evidence you have of the harassment so they can properly investigate.


Screenshot detailing How to Block Someone on Reddit Screenshot with instructions on how to block someone on Reddit through their profile or through your user settings.


Blocking users on Reddit is easy and will prevent you from seeing any of their activity.

How to Handle Virtual Workplace Harassment


How to Handle Virtual Workplace Harassment


While the most common forms of cyber harassment happen on social media, workplace harassment against women is also an issue. Since so much of our work nowadays is done online, this problem has only gotten worse. You have a right to feel safe and confident at work, even if your “work” is technically at your home office via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

People interact differently online, even coworkers you may actually know in person. The anonymity people feel from behind the screen often empowers them to do things they wouldn’t normally do in person. According to one study, 52% of women have experienced harassment at work in the past year.

The harassment women face in the virtual workplace has ranged from inappropriate comments (verbal or text), unprofessional images or videos, threatening behavior, and beyond. It can be difficult sometimes to know what counts as harassment. Some instances of harassment are obvious, like Jeffrey Toobin’s masturbating on Zoom. Other examples may not be so clear, like when Joe from marketing makes those slightly inappropriate jokes to you in the meeting chat. A good rule of thumb is if you’re ever in professional situations where you feel uncomfortable, start keeping a record. Here are some other important steps you can take to handle workplace harassment:

  1. Document everything: Keeping a record of everything someone does to make you uncomfortable will only strengthen your case. Every comment, email, or other inappropriate correspondence is essential evidence, should the interactions have been intentional or persist. Keep screenshots, log the dates and times of any incidents, and maintain a file of anything related to your interactions with that person.
  2. Gauge the situation: If you notice an escalation of the harassment in degree or frequency, it might be time to act sooner rather than later. Suppose you feel the inappropriate communication is less blatant or less frequent. In that case, it may be best to continue documenting the situation and wait until a significant body of evidence has accumulated before moving forward.
  3. Report it: Once you have proof of the harassment, it’s time to take the problem to management. Go to your HR department or management and request the next steps for how you should proceed. Each workplace usually has its own policy outlining how harassment should be handled. If you are unhappy with the way they handle the situation, or perhaps your aggressor is your HR representative or manager, seek legal counsel.



LinkedIn cyber safety


LinkedIn is the hybrid of social media and workplace. As a professional networking and job hunting service, it’s intended for professional use, but it operates like other major social media platforms. Unfortunately, women experience harassment here as well.

Women have reported being asked out through LinkedIn messages, receiving misogynistic comments on posts, and have even had personal information obtained through their resumes and exploited. While users don’t have the anonymity on LinkedIn as they may on other sites, the harassment on LinkedIn is no less severe and no less dangerous. Here are some ways you can protect yourself on LinkedIn:

  1. Be cautious when accepting connections: You can assess requested connections by looking at LinkedIn’s degrees of separation, checking to see if you are in the same industry, and reviewing their profile. If you don’t know them and they’re not in your line of work, it’s safer to deny the connection request.
  2. Remove personal contact information from your resume: You should keep your phone number and home address off your LinkedIn resume to prevent further unwanted and anonymous contact. At least if you’re messaged on LinkedIn, you can view the messenger’s name and profile.
  3. Block and report: Like other social media sites, you can block users from viewing your profile or interacting with you. You can also report inappropriate behavior easily on LinkedIn, and their team will take action. For more help on blocking and reporting on LinkedIn, check out the site’s “help” page.

Online Dating & Sexual Harassment


Online Dating & Sexual Harassment


The advancement of modern technology has made the world a lot smaller, more intimate, and much easier to meet someone special despite distance and hectic schedules. Online dating is now so integrated into our society and culture, over 44 million people use online dating services today. Among those users, 60% of women 18-34 years old reported being contacted by someone even after saying they were no longer interested, and 57% said they’d received unrequested inappropriate messages.

While apps and dating sites make it easy to meet new people, this convenience comes with a high risk, especially for women. Like on social media and virtual workplaces, harassment on dating sites is rampant, and it takes many forms. Dating apps are a hotspot for catfishing and romance scams, and it’s all too easy to fall victim to these ruses. Here are some ways you can make sure you stay safe:

  1. Vet the people you wish to meet—A quick Google search goes a long way. Look up the people you’re talking to on social media. No trace of them anywhere? Be suspicious of a minimal online presence.
  2. Share safely—Keep your contact information private until you’re confident in sharing it. Sexting and sending nudes is normal and can add excitement to relationships, new or old. However, it’s important to know that you can’t guarantee where they’ll end up or how they’ll be used once they’re out in cyberspace. There is risk involved, and it’s important to know what you can do to mitigate that risk as much as possible. While Snapchat was once the go-to app for such steamy activities, thanks to its disappearing messages feature and screenshot notifications, other safer options have been developed in recent years. Dust is a highly encrypted app that doesn’t show your name on-screen with your messages and photos, making it difficult for anyone to tie the messages back to you. Confide is another popular choice, especially for sending nudes, because of its screenshot blurring feature that helps prevent the possibility of revenge porn. Also, keep in mind any identifying features that may be present in your photos. Tattoos, beauty marks, and (of course) your face can all help someone identify you in a picture. Avoid showing these distinguishing features in the photos you share, at least until you’re comfortable and trusting of the recipient.
  3. Carefully plan face-to-face meetings—If you decide to meet someone face-to-face, meet in a public place during the day, let close friends and family know where you’ll be, and drive yourself or take public transportation. If your date insists on picking you up or meeting at your place, that’s a red flag! Sharing your location with trusted friends is a great way to stay safe while going on an in-person date.
  4. Make sure your other accounts are private and secure—With reverse image searches, it’s easy for people to find out more information about you from the images you use on your dating profiles. Chances are, your matches will want to vet you too. If you want to minimize their ability to investigate you, consider using images on your dating profiles that don’t show up on your other social media accounts. If you choose to use some of the same photos, ensure your other accounts are not revealing personal information to unfriended strangers. Your match knowing you have other profiles will give them confidence that you are who you say you are, but concealing your personal details beyond that will help keep you safe.
  5. Block and report—If you experience inappropriate comments, uncomfortable interactions, or aggression on a dating site, block and report the offender. Reporting harassment lowers the chance that a person will continue their behavior towards you and others.

Fortunately, both Tinder and Bumble have reporting features on all profile pages and messaging windows and actively encourage users to report all policy violations. The terms and conditions for both apps are pretty common sense: no asking for money, no pretending to be someone they’re not, no sending harassing messages or explicit photos, etc. But if you’re unsure what you can report on dating apps, check out the safety tips and policies for Tinder and Bumble.

Online Gaming Harassment


Online Gaming Harassment


Online gaming is a lot like physical sports in the sense that there is a competitive culture, so much so that trash talking and insults are essentially part of the gaming experience itself. Beyond the friendly competition, however, there is significant sexism within gaming culture that has put women, particularly women of color, in the line of fire. Women comprise roughly 41% of all gamers but are still subjected to overwhelming harassment on and offline due to their participation in online gaming.

Last year, 70 prominent gamers, most of whom identify as women, came forward with their personal experiences of sexual harassment and other gender-based discrimination in the industry. They took a similar approach to women of the #metoo movement, empowering themselves and drawing attention to the injustices they incurred by sharing their stories and outing the culprits on social media. While some women report receiving sexual comments from fellow gamers, others describe their harassment as not being taken seriously in the gaming community simply for being a woman.

As esports become increasingly popular in our high-tech society, it’s unfair and discouraging that women are dismissed in this realm as we are in others. Online games, like sports, are meant to be fun, competitive, challenging, and communal, and yet nearly half of the gaming community doesn’t consistently reap these benefits. For example, at a tournament, competitive gamer Miranda Pakozdi intentionally sabotaged her game to escape the sexual harassment by her team’s coach throughout the competition.

So, what can be done to avoid or put a stop to this? Do women simply surrender the industry to their abusers? While some women may decide to walk away from gaming or play alone, there are other available options for managing and preventing gender-based harassment in the gaming community.

Some basic video game safety includes never revealing your name, location, or other personal identifiers like your email and home address, phone number, or birthday. Consider keeping your gaming life entirely separate from everything else, and sign up with a burner email and false information. Doing so helps prevent doxxing. Rather than using a photo of yourself in your gaming profile, build an avatar. For safety purposes, your avatar shouldn’t resemble you, and you can even make your avatar gender-ambiguous if you wish to conceal your gender to other gamers. Craft your Gamertag with care; avoid including any iteration of your name or your other online handles. Following these rules of thumb will help prevent any harassment that may occur from extending beyond the gaming realm to real life.

When it comes to confronting harassment, there are several useful strategies, many of which mirror the courses of action in other online spaces. For example, a popular early step is muting or blocking communications from gamers who refuse to respect you. You can also report gamers, just as you would on social media. Document any harassment you experience, especially if your instinct tells you it may escalate. Keeping a record of your experience will help in the event that you need to turn to law enforcement to intervene. Screenshots, logs, and recordings are all useful ways of documenting evidence of harassment.

How to Prevent and Stop Hacking and Doxxing


How to Prevent and Stop Hacking and Doxxing


Hacking and doxxing are two major issues that occur online, and both are invasions of privacy. Hacking is how internet users get your personal information, and doxxing is when that information is shared publicly for malicious purposes. There are many different ways for hackers to access your information, so it’s essential to know the signs that you’ve been hacked and what you can do to stop it or prevent it altogether. Here are a few things to look for if you think you may have been hacked:

  1. Check your accounts—Make sure you can access all of your accounts: social media, banks, and other profiles online. If your password doesn’t work or you find suspicious activity on your accounts (like friends receiving unusual messages from you), it may be a sign that you have been hacked. Being unable to access key system settings also indicates a breach in your cyber security. The best ways to avoid these types of attacks are to use strong passwords, set up a firewall, and avoid email phishing scams. You can also enable two-factor authentication to strengthen your security, so it takes more than just your password to log into your accounts. Microsoft concluded that utilizing two-factor authentication blocks 99.9% of automated attacks.
  2. Suspicious apps on your device—If you come across apps you don’t recall ever installing or seeing on your device, they could be malware. Malware is any kind of malicious software designed to compromise system security, and it’s a common way for hackers to get your information. If you have malware on your device, you will likely see strange pop-ups and fake antivirus software messages. A good rule of thumb is to vet antivirus software thoroughly before downloading it to your device, and never add anything that seems suspicious or disreputable.
  3. Redirected homepage—When you open your internet browser, you may find that your normal homepage is redirected to an unfamiliar site. While sometimes, this is simply a user mistake that can be easily corrected, other times it is a sign that someone has hacked you. To stop this, remove any unknown third-party browser add-ons, extensions, or toolbars. You should also change your browser’s homepage back to the default and restart your device. If the problem persists, it may be a sign of a more severe malware problem.

Doxxing is often used by hackers to silence people—especially women—who they disagree with. Celebrities, for example, are often subject to doxxing. Women such as Kim Kardashian, Michelle Obama, and many others have experienced doxxing, and their personal information became available to the public without their knowledge or consent. Important financial details such as social security numbers, credit card information, and banking information got leaked, putting their identities and livelihoods in jeopardy.

Celebrities, however, are not the only women at risk of being doxxed. Brianna Wu, a successful software engineer, frequently receives hateful comments online. She reports being called a liar, a fraud, and other (more vulgar) names. On top of name-calling and other forms of harassment, she has seen first-hand how everyday women can get doxxed by cybercriminals. A SWAT team visited one friend of Brianna’s after someone falsely reported her for committing criminal activity. Photos of another friend’s children were posted to pedophile chat rooms.

While it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate the threat of doxxing online, there are several safety tips to help prevent yourself from falling victim to doxxing:

  1. Avoid oversharing—This may seem obvious, but it’s so easy to overshare online. Be extremely careful what, how, and to whom you’re sharing sensitive information. Anything tied to your identity or finances should be kept in the strictest confidence and only shared when absolutely necessary. Be mindful of the personal details you reveal in forums like Reddit and Quora as well if you use them.
  2. Choose smart, unique passwords—While it may seem like a good idea to use your birthday, your cat’s name, or a family member’s name as a password for the sake of easy remembering, choosing a password that’s not so easily guessable is essential to cyber security and preventing doxxing. You should also avoid reusing passwords or similar iterations. If a doxxer gets into one of your accounts, they’ll be able to get into all of them with a single password, making the invasion much more severe. Use a unique combination of letters, numbers, special characters, and capitals each time you create a new password to strengthen your online accounts.
  3. Remove your info from directories—Online directories such as whitepages.com and peoplefinder.com have information about you that they sell to others for a small fee. This information may include your home address, your phone number, relatives, and more. However, if you reach out to these sites and request your information to be removed, those sites legally have to comply for privacy purposes.
  4. Get a VPN—VPNs hide your IP address, which can reveal your general location. Look for VPNs that have advanced encryption and kill switches to protect your data while you’re online.

When Cyber Harassment Moves Offline

Technology has made it infinitely easier for stalkers to research and track you. Studies suggest that 61% of female victims are stalked by current or former partners, and the bulk of this stalking begins or continues online. A variety of apps, both intended for and not intended for consensual surveillance, are used by perpetrators to assert power over their partners.

There are obviously many ways to stop online harassment instantly through features like blocking, reporting, and increasing privacy settings on a site. But what happens when the harassment moves from online to offline? Having an arsenal of strategies and tools to combat digital surveillance and in-person violence can help you stay safe.

  1. Document and report incidents—Keeping detailed documentation of how, when, where, and what a harasser says or does is an essential step to ending the problem. Once you have a body of evidence, go to the appropriate authority with your case. Depending on the circumstances, this could include your HR department, online reporting resources, or your local law enforcement.
  2. Protect your phone—If you’re like most people, your phone is your single most important possession when it comes to your personal information. Having your phone stolen or hacked can cause anxiety, fear, and it can even put your life in jeopardy. Password protecting your phone is the least you can do to secure your device. Beyond that, having a Find My Device app is helpful, as these can not only help locate your phone but also allow you to erase your data remotely.
  3. Improve cybersecurity—We often don’t consider how much personal information we share when we’re online. Consider getting a VPN to hide your location and online activity and encrypt your data. Premium VPNs are the only safe option when it comes to cybersecurity, but if you can’t afford to purchase a subscription, a free one can still offer you basic protection.
  4. Reach out to those you trust—If you’re in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, threatened, or surveilled, reaching out to trusted friends and family can not only make you feel safer but can help you determine your next steps. Having allies who are aware of your circumstances makes overcoming harassment easier.
  5. Travel safely—If you’re meeting up with someone new for the first time, make the meeting in a crowded place during the daytime, and don’t disclose your address. While it’s nice to assume people have good intentions, it’s safer to assume they might not and then take measures to ensure safety until you’ve established trust. Ridesharing has also become a prominent form of travel, and there are plenty of horror stories about women being harmed when using them. Make sure you’re getting into the right car, let friends know your travel plans, and don’t be afraid to use the 911 feature that Uber and many other ridesharing services offer in the event of an emergency.

Digital Tools for Dealing with Intimate Partner Violence

Before the coronavirus pandemic, 243 million women and girls worldwide experienced domestic violence. Since the stay-at-home orders and, for many, the transition to teleworking, this number has rapidly increased. Because domestic violence can be isolating for the victim, you need to be aware of some digital tools and resources you can use in case you find yourself in an abusive relationship.

  1. myPlan App—myPlan is a free app designed to help with safety decisions if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse within a relationship. The app is backed by scientific research and was designed by survivors for survivors. If you’re unsure of what to do, how serious your situation is, or how to safely end the relationship, myPlan is one of the most effective digital tools available. The app is available on both iOS and Android devices.
  2. TechSafety App—Developed by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, this app is a wealth of information in one convenient place. The information on the app is designed to help identify harassment, stalking, and other cyber abuse and includes detailed steps on what you can do. The app includes resources on technology-facilitated abuse as well as life-saving hotlines. The TechSafety App is available for both iOS and Android devices.
  3. React Mobile App—Designed specifically for emergencies, React Mobile allows you to instantly send out an emergency alert without even unlocking your phone. With the tap of a button, your location is instantly shared with your preselected contacts. Emergency alerts can be sent to email addresses, via text, on social media, and more, so you get the help you need as soon as possible. React Mobile is compatible with iOS devices and can be found on the Apple App Store.
  4. Siren 911—The free Siren 911 app provides users with a panic button that, when activated, immediately notifies law enforcement of an emergency and provides your exact location and profile information. The Siren 911 app can be found on the Apple App Store for iOS devices.
  5. National Domestic Violence Hotline website: This website is the go-to source for information, resources, and immediate aid for women experiencing intimate partner violence. Here, you can find tips on internet safety, how to protect children and pets, and how to create a safety plan. There are specific resources available for those who are deaf or hard of hearing as well as people who are Native American.

Key Takeaways for Staying Safe Online

You have a right to feel safe in your home, at your workplace, and online. Implementing cybersecurity best practices, using the latest digital resources, and maintaining a support network are just a few of the ways you can stay safe online. Some of the prevailing best safety practices across the internet include:

  1. Block and report—If the site you’re on permits you to mute and/or block other users, take advantage of this opportunity. Report harassment, particularly incidences that feel particularly threatening, to the appropriate authorities.
  2. Share as little as possible—Avoid sharing as many personal details as you can. We all know that once something is online, there’s no guarantee it’s gone even if you delete it later.
  3. Document everything—Keep careful records of harassment. Screenshots/photos, videos/recordings, and logs are just a few ways to document evidence. This will become an important safety net if you choose to seek assistance from law enforcement.
  4. Never settle for default settings—If you make an online account, apart from signing up, the first thing you should do is set up your privacy and security settings. Set them to your comfort level, always erring on the side of caution when in doubt.

If you or someone you know is experiencing intimate partner violence, here are some regional resources that can help:

In the US:
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence

In the UK:
UK Government Resources
Refuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline
Galop LGBT+ anti-abuse organization

In European countries:
EU National Resources

In Australia:
Services Australia
Domestic Violence Resource Centre

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Julia SJ


Web security writer and ex-software developer with a penchant for travel, techno, and data. Currently on a delicious, healthy diet of cyber security, privacy and international data laws, blockchain, automation, and big data (and coffee!)

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