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Cyber stalking rampant amongst young New Zealanders - study

By Shannon Williams, 25 Jun 2021

Cyber stalking rampant amongst young New Zealanders, with one in three New Zealanders likely to cyber stalk their partner or ex partner.

The 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, from cyber safety firm NortonLifeLock, examined online creeping behaviours, following someone persistently or stealthily online. It uncovered striking generational differences among New Zealanders cyber-stalking tendencies in modern day romantic relationships. 

Around two in five of younger New Zealanders (40%) who currently have a romantic partner believe it is acceptable to be stalked online by a current or former partner, as long as they are not being stalked in person. This figure is almost halved among New Zealanders aged 40 or older (22%) who do not feel as comfortable in similar situations. 

According to the report, more than a third of New Zealanders aged 18-39 believe it is harmless to stalk a current or former partner online if its for the good of the latter's physical or mental well-being (38%), while just 19% of New Zealanders who are 40 or older agree. 

Younger New Zealanders are twice more likely than those 40 or older to agree online stalking is okay if one or both partners have cheated or are suspected of cheating (27% vs. 14%) and admit they would be more likely to stalk a lover or an ex online if they knew they would not get caught (27% vs. 12%). 

Of note, very few New Zealanders say they tracked their ex or lover's physical activity via their phone or health app (5%) or used an app to monitor text messages, phone calls, direct messages, emails or photos (4%).

"There seems to be a perception that cyberstalking is more out of sight, out of mind, with 31% of young New Zealanders saying they don't care if they are being stalked online by a current or former partner without them knowing," says Mark Gorrie, senior director - APJ, NortonLifeLock. 

"Whilst the uptake of downloading creepware apps to your partners devices is relatively low, the acceptance or belief that cyberstalking our current or ex-partners is relatively harmless, especially among younger New Zealanders is concerning," he says.

"With recent depictions of online stalking and stalkerware technology featured in TV shows and other pop culture, it's concerning to think that these dramatisations may be influencing dating standards in modern day romance."

Kevin Roundy, technical director and stalkerware specialist with Norton Labs, NortonLifeLock's research division, says Norton issues warnings to customers alerting them of potential stalkerware apps on their devices.

"Our latest threat telemetry shows that use of this invasive technology is steadily climbing. Between September 2020 and May 2021, our research team found a 63% uptick in the number of devices infected with stalkerware, amounting to more than 250,000 compromised devices per month," he says. 

"It's alarming to think about this increase within the context of our study. Many young Americans are saying it is at least somewhat likely these invasive apps will be part of their current romantic relationships (42%).

"When online creeping manifests into a compulsive pattern or evolves to use technology and tactics to discreetly track activity on someones personal device or harass them online, it becomes a serious issue of cyber stalking," says Roundy. 

"Cyber stalking can take on many forms, but the common denominator is that it is unwanted, invasive, and obsessive."

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