How IoT Devices and Domestic Abuse Are Linked

Written by Supriyo Chatterji
Last updated October 19, 2021

IoT devices have become a new means of domestic abusers exerting control over their victims. In England and Wales, two women are killed by their domestic abusers per week. Studies suggest that IoT devices can play a role in these specific cases.

The most commonly used IoT devices by domestic abusers are:

According to a new research study conducted on 2,000 female responders by Avast and Refuge, a UK-based domestic abuse charity, almost half (48%) did not know any device in their homes that could be used by domestic abusers. For responders over 55 years of age, this number goes up to 60%. Further, the study showed that 66% of women did not know how to get info to secure their devices. This number rose to 79% for responders above 45 years and above.

Other concerning statistics include only 64% of UK women retaining admin-level control over their IoT devices. Moreover, 27% of women stated they did not have equal admin access and privilege sharing in these homes. Furthermore, 18% of women do not control the Wi-Fi settings in their homes. Another troubling statistic has to do with passwords, with 41% of women sharing their passwords for their personal devices with spouses, partners, or family members. Meanwhile, 72% of women gave these passwords by choice.

According to Ruth Davison, CEO at Refuge, these statistics reveal a lot more could be at play under the surface. She believes that many women will not know how to notice if their partner is abusing their trust by using their password. Even worse, their abusive partner or family member might be spying on their devices or online activity through these devices.

Davison states that one in four women will face domestic abuse in their lives, and technology has an increasing role to play in this abuse. Avast and Refuse are partnering together to launch an IoT home safety tool that could notify users of IoT devices potentially used by abusers. It can also offer advice on how to protect the devices or oneself from anyone spying through them.

The tool's interface is designed to represent the user's home in a simple and intuitive format. The registered devices will be highlighted on the interface, and clicking them will bring up relevant details. According to Jaya Baloo, CISO at Avast, all 10 devices mentioned in the study are very popular. So, the threat labs at Avast have conducted a stress test on such devices so that they can be easily modified via their settings to protect women from any potential privacy abuse from their partners or spouses.

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