We welcomed Kirsty Jackson, a Cyber Protect and Prevent Officer from Nottinghamshire Police to our Preventing Cyber-Crime Conference. They discussed the rising threat of cyber-dependent domestic abuse, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, and outlined essential measures to safeguard individuals from such crimes. The full video is available to watch above, with a summary below.

The rise in cyber-dependent domestic abuse has been notable, with increased reports of online harassment, stalking, and unauthorised access to personal accounts. The most common forms of cyber-dependent abuse include cyberstalking, unauthorised access to digital accounts, and online harassment (Crown Prosecution Service).


During the COVID-19 lockdowns, there was a significant rise in cyber-dependent domestic abuse, reflecting a broader increase in domestic abuse cases. Here are key statistics and insights on this issue:

  • Increased Reports of Domestic Abuse: Between April and June 2020, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline in the UK saw a 65% increase in calls compared to the first three months of that year (UK Research and Innovation)​.
  • Changes in Reporting Patterns: A study by the London School of Economics highlighted that abuse by current partners and family members increased by 8.1% and 17.1%, respectively, during the lockdown, while abuse by ex-partners declined by 11.4% (LSE Research Online)​.
  • Helpline Data: From April to December 2020, calls and contacts logged on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline database increased by 34% compared to the same period in 2019. The Respect helpline for male victims of domestic abuse saw a 39% increase in calls, and the helpline for domestic abuse perpetrators looking for help saw a 62% increase​ (UK Parliament)​.
  • Impact on Women and Children: In the first three weeks of the initial lockdown, there were 16 domestic abuse killings of women and children in the UK, the highest number in at least 11 years (Commons Library)​.

Understanding Cyber-Dependent Domestic Abuse

Cyber-dependent domestic abuse involves using technology to harass, stalk, or harm victims. During the first COVID-19 lockdown, there was a notable 17.2% increase in reports of such abuse. Jackson emphasised the importance of recognising the role of technology in these situations, which often include unauthorised access to computers, social media hacking, and installing malicious software.

Key Legal Frameworks

The Computer Misuse Act 1990 is crucial in defining and addressing cybercrimes, including:

  • Unauthorised access to computer material
  • Acts intending to impair computer operations

These legal definitions help in categorising and tackling cyber-dependent crimes effectively​ (Crown Prosecution Service)​.

Preventative Measures

Jackson provided several practical steps to prevent cyber-dependent abuse:

  1. Use Strong Authentication: Implement passcodes, biometric authentication, and two-step verification on devices and online accounts.
  2. Change and Strengthen Passwords: Regularly update passwords and ensure they are unique and complex, avoiding any easily guessable information.
  3. Monitor and Remove Unauthorised Access: Regularly check devices and accounts for unauthorised access and remove any suspicious apps or user credentials.
  4. Disable Location Services: Turn off location tracking on devices and social media to prevent abusers from knowing your whereabouts.
  5. Educate Family and Friends: Ensure that those close to you understand the importance of online privacy and do not share sensitive information or locations.

Addressing Unauthorised Access

If you suspect your social media or other online accounts have been compromised, Jackson recommends:

  • Changing passwords immediately.
  • Enabling two-step verification to add an extra layer of security.
  • Reporting fake accounts and suspicious activity to the relevant service providers.
  • Looking out for notifications about attempted logins as these can indicate unauthorised access.

Protecting Cloud and Shared Accounts

For cloud storage and shared accounts, it is crucial to:

  • Remove abusers from any shared accounts.
  • Avoid sharing passwords.
  • Use strong, unique passwords and two-step verification.
  • Back up important data using methods inaccessible to abusers.

Social Media Safety

Jackson highlighted the need to:

  • Use privacy settings to control who can view your posts.
  • Disable location services to avoid inadvertently sharing your location.
  • Be cautious about check-ins and tagging on social media, as these can reveal your location and activities.

Cyber-dependent domestic abuse is a growing concern, exacerbated by increased reliance on technology. By following these measures, individuals can better protect themselves from cyber-related threats and maintain their privacy and security online. For comprehensive guidance, Jackson recommends visiting cyberaware.gov.uk.

Contact Information

For those facing immediate threats or suspecting cyber-dependent abuse, reporting to local authorities and Action Fraud is crucial. They can provide support and further advice tailored to individual situations.

This was presented at our Preventing Cyber Crime Conference. For more insights like this, please see our latest event below.

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The rise in cyber-dependent domestic abuse has been notable, with increased reports of online harassment, stalking, and unauthorised access to personal accounts. Kirsty Jackson discussed the rising threat and outlined essential measures to safeguard individuals.

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