New research conducted by King’s College London (KCL) sheds light on a significant gender disparity in the provision and effectiveness of online safety advice and technology.
Presented at the Usenix Security Symposium 2023, the study surveyed 600 UK adults, revealing that women are disproportionately impacted by this gap. The findings indicate that 76% of women rely on in-person advice from family members for online safety, whereas only 24% of men do the same. In contrast, 70% of men seek guidance from online sources, while only 38% of women utilize such resources.
The research team at KCL pointed out that the current approach of seeking advice primarily from family members might not guarantee the necessary expertise, potentially leaving women inadequately informed about digital safety.
Moreover, the study highlighted that online safety guidance available on the internet is not reaching a significant portion of women, which could hinder their ability to protect themselves effectively in the digital realm.
Interestingly, the report also revealed differing patterns in the types of protections relied upon by women and men. Women tend to depend more on basic online safeguards such as privacy settings, software updates, and strong passwords. In contrast, men display a greater comfort level with advanced security technologies like firewalls, VPNs, anti-spyware tools, anti-malware solutions, and multi-factor authentication.
Kovila Coopamootoo, the lead author of the research, emphasized that despite comprising more than half of the population, women face obstacles in engaging effectively with digital safety advice and security technologies. She underscored the significance of addressing this gender gap and called for a more inclusive approach to developing online safety opportunities that cater to the entire population, irrespective of gender.