Are you a tech optimist? I generally tend to be. Yet as I read about new technology, I sometimes find myself thinking, “This is amazing! And terrifying.” As we approach the end of cybersecurity Awareness Month, I’d like to draw attention to the issue of technology-facilitated abuse.

Abusers Use Technology To Control And Hold Power Over Their Victims

Abusers can use technology to enable stalking, harassment, and domestic violence (both physical and emotional). For example, smart home technology promises convenience, such as the ability to see what the cat is up to during the day, and the ability to remotely control things like the temperature or lights. Great, until it is used against someone to intimidate and monitor them.

Apps that can help to track someone’s location can help a parent know when their child has arrived home safely. Great, until that surveillance capability is used to manipulate and control.

In other cases, abusers may threaten to or go through with sharing intimate photos without consent online (revenge porn and image abuse) to humiliate their victim. Technology can enable abuse in many ways, as VAWnet highlights here.

The US Federal Trade Commission recently settled its first case against developers of a monitoring and tracking app designed in such a way that was well suited for stalking. It’s a start.

What We Can Do Within Our Organizations To Help

As security and risk professionals, we need to acknowledge that raising awareness about cybersecurity, and helping people be safer and more secure online, also extends to the role we have in designing secure products, services, and experiences.

We think about how an attacker may compromise employees, infrastructure, applications, supply chain, and more. We don’t pay nearly enough attention to how an abuser could exploit the procedures/processes we put in place for security or how they could harm others using the products and services offered to customers. Abusers who weaponize your products or services to hurt others are a threat to your company’s brand and reputation.

This is an issue that sits at the intersection of technology, cybersecurity, privacy, and diversity. Yes, diversity. Because when we create (policies, products, services, customer experiences) within a vacuum or homogeneous environment, it’s easy to overlook what is glaringly apparent to someone who has had different life experiences and views compared to our own.

What We Can Do To Support People Today

Enable the business? Yes. Enable abusers? No. What else can we do? Help the people whose mission is to help victims of technology-facilitated abuse and domestic violence. Let’s highlight resources and organizations and support their efforts. I’ll start with a few below. Drop a note in the comments to share more resources!