Gender greatly affects Internet users’ experiences and behavior while moving around and interacting in Cyberspace. The impact of threats of digital nature is different based on gender and sexual orientation, as gender reinforces social, economic, political, and cultural structures of the real world. These threats may be in the form of electronic bullying, violence, sexual harassment, hacking, data leaks, extortion, or hate speech. This paper discusses the importance of digital security for women and LGBTQ+ people, in addition to presenting a number of initiatives and training guides that aim to provide technical support to women and the least represented groups when it comes to protecting privacy, data, and digital security.
Why do we need digital security?
Girls are exposed to being targeted online due to their age and sex. The rate of such practices increases if a girl expresses her political opinion, is of African descent, with a disability, or is LGBTQ+. Plan International has conducted a poll about girls’ online experiences. It revealed that 58% of the respondents have experienced harassment, while 50% of the girls experience more harassment online compared to the streets, 42% of LGPTQ+ respondents were harassed because of their sexual orientations. Girls experience harassment online at the age of 8, and most girls experience harassment for the first time between the ages of 14 to 16.
Several research papers point out that LGBTQ+ people are more exposed to online bullying, which contributes to the increasing number of suicide cases among them and might affect their school progress. In 2019 more than 28.1% of LGBTQ+ teenagers have experienced harassment, compared to 14.1% of cis-sexual teenagers. LGBTQ+ people of African descent are more likely to be exposed to mental health problems than cis-sexual people. A study by The American University of CDC data found that 56% of LGBTQ+ people of African descent were exposed to depression, and 38% of them suffered from suicidal thoughts.
In a time when sharing personal data and information is becoming more dangerous for most Internet users, the danger is doubled if data was shared by women or LGBTQ+ people. This danger may materialize in the form of job loss, damaging family or friend relationships, and threats of physical harm. Thus, it is important to look at digital security and the protection of sensitive data as an integral part of Internet users’ behavior.
Organizations and initiatives providing technical support to women
- Cybersecurity Program | EDUCAUSE: A digital security program of EDUCAUSE NGO. Tools and resources required for reinforcing information security and privacy can be obtained from the program through the university campus equally for students, the faculty, institutional leadership, employees, and partners. Establishing effective programs of information security and privacy help understanding the dangers faced by women, and safe courses of action they should use to ensure the safety and protection of data.
- The Diana Initiative: Is a conference on digital security for women held in the United States. It is based on the principle of diversity and supports the groups least represented in information security. The initiative includes a number of activities, and this year’s discussion is focused on the methods by which information security and diversity initiatives can rise whether on levels of sex, race, sexual orientation, skill, or Neurodiversity.
- OWASP Women in AppSec (WIA): An initiative that aims to reinforce women’s leadership, effective participation, and contribution to professional communities of applications’ security on international and domestic levels. The initiative works on providing opportunities to women and the least represented groups based on gender, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, body constraints, and racial minority, to engage in the field of applications’ security and related professional learning communities. The initiative also provides comprehensive training for all interested women, as well as application security programs targeting all trainees, in addition to financial support in the form of scholarships.
- Ladies in Cybersecurity by DefCamp: A conference held in Bucharest, Romania, that sheds the light on inspiring women who work in the digital security field so that they share their practical experiences to help other women evolve on personal and professional levels. The conference includes a group of speakers who provide visions and helpful guidance in the field of digital security that everybody can use regardless of their gender. The speakers also discuss cybersecurity threats and share their stories about the information industry. The conference also includes a number of workshops and individual sessions.
- Cercle des Femmes de la CyberSécurité (CEFCYS): An institution that aims to reinforce women presence and leadership in cybersecurity related jobs. The organization has more than 400 members of women and men who work in this field. CEFCYS works in 6 main cities in France and abroad in Spain, the Netherlands, Morocco, and Argentina. It was established based on the increase in the percentage of women working in the cybersecurity field is an exceedingly important social and economic cause.
- Cyversity: An initiative interested in achieving fair representation of women and the groups least represented in the digital security industry through programs designed for reinforcing diversity, culture, and empowerment. The initiative deals with the digital gap by providing scholarships, developing a diverse labor force, early awareness, and guidance programs. The initiative also works on increasing the number of students in disciplines related to digital security at graduate and post-graduate levels through financing scholarships. The initiative facilitates career progress for those interested in digital security by making available financial support for gaining advanced scientific degrees, and professional certificates in the digital security field. The initiative has also created a process for collecting and publishing information for women and the least represented groups in the digital security field.
- International Consortium Of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP): A non-profit institution that works on empowering women and the least represented groups to evolve in the digital security industry. The institution provides many resources including guiding programs, skills assessments, job opportunities, and scholarships for women in the field of cybersecurity. The initiative targets all women and minorities interested in the field of digital security through programs that reinforce recruitment, inclusiveness, and integration.
- Girl Scouts HPE Cybersecurity Patch: Girl Scouts Nation’s Capitals has announced a new program and game for digital security that was developed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) with the purpose of teaching young scout girls (9-11 years old) how to browse the Internet safely. The program covers basic knowledge and best practices through four main courses: personal information and the digital footprint, safety across the Internet, privacy and security, and electronic bullying. A group of women working in digital security for HPE developed and designed the program for free to encourage and support more women in this field and to raise awareness about the increasing importance of digital security. As a part of the program, HPE has also developed an online educational game named Cyber Squad, designed to teach girls cybersecurity through an interactive narrative setting that takes players through real-world scenarios and simulated the consequences of dangerous and safe online behaviors.
- She Secures: An initiative to raise awareness about digital security and include more women in this field at a young age. The initiative hosts activities, training camps, online seminars, guidance sessions, and Hackathons, and connects members to each other through training opportunities. It also helps the members find jobs in the field of digital security. The initiative started in Nigeria, and its members are found in all areas of Africa and other regions. Some of the initiative programs aim to help young people discover digital security while other programs target women interested in entering or developing their careers in the digital security industry.
- LGBT Tech: A diversified team from several backgrounds who belong to the LGBTQ+ community. Based on empirical research the team develops programs and resources that support LGBTQ+ communities and educates organizations and policymakers about the unique needs of LGBTQ+ people when it comes to technology. The team seeks to serve the LGBTQ+ community through education, programs, partnerships, and research.
Training guides for protecting the digital security of Women and LGBTQs
- DIY Online Security Guide for Every Woman: A digital security guide, launched by the non-profit organization Chayn. It is characterized by simplicity as anybody can use it. It offers instructions for teaching women how to make strong passwords, review privacy policies of social media, and know if they were followed or stalked online. It also provides methods for fighting domestic violence.
- Security In A Box: Digital security guide launched by Tactical Tech to cover the basic principles of digital security. It includes advice about how to use social media platforms and smartphones more securely. The guide provides step-by-step instructions to help women and LGBTQ+ people install and use the most important digital security applications and services.
- Surveillance Self-Defense: A guide launched by the non-profit organization EFF to help women and LGBTQ+ people protect themselves against surveillance using safe techniques and accurate practices. The guide includes educational lessons about how to encrypt email messages and smartphones, enable two-step authentication, bypass Internet censorship, and delete data.
- Safety and protection guide: This guide provides practical methods for guaranteeing the safety and security of LGBTQ+ people and human rights defenders in Kenya. The guide offers the basic concepts of digital safety and security and examines threats and dangers and how LGBTQ+ people and human rights defenders can respond to them. It also provides information and explanation of practices that may cause security dangers and threats and sheds the light on basic guiding principles for safety and security. It also provides tools and strategies for enhancing the skills of LGBTQ+ people and human rights defenders.
- Digital security guide for the LGBTQ and the rest of characters: A guide launched by Mesahat Foundation for Sexual and Gender Diversity. The guide discusses the potential dangers due to digital negligence. It provides information on how to secure PCs and smartphones. It also provides tools and strategies for digital security on social media sites and dating apps, and how to secure email, audio, and video chats and browsing on the Internet.