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Avast and Refuge Launch ‘Digital Break-Up’ Kit to Raise Awareness of Tech Abuse

19 July 2022

Almost half of Brits (47%) know someone else’s online password; with one in five of them knowing their ex partner’s password

Avast, a global leader in digital security and privacy, and Refuge, the UK’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, have joined forces to create the Digital Break-up Kit which equips women with the knowledge to effectively and safely break-up digitally.

In today’s world where connection is often as digital as it is physical, the kit is designed to help raise awareness of the importance of a clean ‘digital break-up’ to protect against the threat of tech abuse from ex-partners. It includes a step-by-step guide on how to identify potential tech-based vulnerabilities and guidance on how to re-establish privacy and security across devices and platforms to support women in digitally disentangling themselves from ex-partners.

Based on a survey of 2000 men and women in the UK who participated in the research, Avast and Refuge identified that sharing devices, passwords, online tools, bank accounts and even locations with partners, often went unchecked both within a relationship and more worryingly once relationships had ended.

Key findings included:

  • 47% of respondents said they know someone else’s online password(s). Over half (55%) of those who knew another’s password said they know their current partners’ and a fifth (20%) know that of an ex-partner.
  • Almost a quarter of respondents (24%) have been victim to someone accessing an account and changing their password(s) without their knowledge or consent.
  • One in ten (9%), said they have access to an ex-partner’s location through apps such as ‘Find my friends’, Google location sharing, or Snapchat
  • Of those who know their ex-partner/spouse’s password, 35% admitted they still have access to their exes Facebook account and 33% admitted they can still access the work email account of an ex-partner

Jaya Baloo, Chief Information Security Officer, Avast said, “These are truly worrying statistics. Gone are the days of simply returning personal effects and one another’s door keys when a relationship ends. While we know that people do share passwords and devices with a partner, there can be a very dark side to this behaviour – particularly when women are coerced into sharing their passwords.

“This interactive tool is designed to provide awareness of the various digital platforms a partner or ex-partner might have access to, whether it’s their social media accounts, online banking, or live location through apps such as Uber or Strava. The tool also provides women with the necessary knowledge to secure these digital platforms against potential tech abuse from a partner or ex-partner. In creating this tool, we hope to empower women to take control of their devices and enable them to enjoy their digital freedom, either at the start or end of a relationship.”

Ruth Davison Refuge CEO said, “While the findings from this research are deeply concerning, we believe they only scratch the surface. Tech abuse is a growing problem, and involves much more than sharing passwords. It can be anything from unwanted messages, spyware or stalkerware being installed on devices, to controlling or harassing someone via home tech.

“The reality is one in four women in England and Wales will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime. Technology is increasingly an integrated part of our lives and perpetrators are finding new ways to control and abuse women.

This is why we have teamed up with Avast to launch our Digital Break-Up Kit. By creating this tool, we aim to raise awareness of tech abuse, and also encourage women to be able to create clear boundaries for their tech security with their ex partners. The solution must not be to force women offline, it must be to empower them to use tech safely and confidently. ‘

Avast and Refuge’s Digital Break-Up Kit can be accessed via http://www.refugetechsafety.org.uk/digitalbreakup

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