Security pitfalls of breaking a relationship

This Valentine’s Day, a McAfee study highlights how breakups can result in privacy leaks online if you share passwords, bank account details, and other personal data while in the relationship.
Written by Swati Prasad, Contributor

Indians love to take risks by sharing personal information and intimate photos with their partners and friends, and that often lands them up in trouble.

On Tuesday, McAfee released findings from its "2013 Love, Relationships, and Technology" survey which examines the pitfalls of sharing personal data in relationships and discloses how breakups can lead to privacy leaks online. The study highlights the need for consumers to take steps to protect themselves from cyberstalking and exposure of private information.

The research showed that 96 percent of Indians believed their data and revealing photos were safe in the hands of their partners. Over 86 percent of Indians sent personal or intimate text and e-mail messages, or photos, and nearly 63 percent shared their bank account details, and 47 percent shared their passwords with their partners.

"Eighty-six percent of smartphone owners have personal and intimate information on their mobile devices, such as bank account information, passwords, credit card numbers and revealing photos, yet only 79 percent have password protection on their devices. This leaves a gap in personal data protection, which results in exposure," according to a statement issued by McAfee.

Revenge of the ex

The IT security vendor also found that 77 percent of adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. Additionally, three in 10 had threatened to expose risqué photos of their former partners online.

Of those surveyed these were the partner-related actions that led to the exposure of personal data:

  • Lied to me (38 percent);
  • Cheated on me (48 percent);
  • Broke up with me (41 percent);
  • Called off wedding (23 percent);
  • Posted picture with someone else (15 percent); and
  • Other reasons (3 percent).

According to the survey, despite the risks, 53 percent Indians still planned to send sexy or romantic photos to their partners via e-mail, text and social media on Valentine's Day. It was found that 60 percent Mumbaiites, 51.8 percent Delhiites, and 47 percent Chennai residents planned to share their sexy or romantic photos to their partners via e-mail, text and social media on Valentine's Day.

"We're all aware of the cases involving celebrities, but you don't have to be a celebrity to have your personal information exposed," said Lubna Markar, senior marketing manager at McAfee India and South Asia. "Sharing passwords with your partner might seem harmless, but it often puts you at risk for a 'revenge of the ex' situation, landing private information in a public platform for all to see. Everyone needs to be aware of the risks and take the steps to make sure their personal data is safe and secure."

As per the survey, about half of the population regretted sending such intimate content after a breakup and 49 percent asked their ex-partner to delete all personal content.

Dangers of cyberstalking

When armed with their partner's passwords, a majority of Indians would snoop and check out their partners' e-mail, bank accounts and social media pages. More than 73 percent of people surveyed admitted to checking their significant others' social media pages, while 44 percent peeked at bank accounts and nearly 72 percent scanned through e-mail messages. The survey also revealed that 47 percent tracked their ex-partner on Facebook and 49 percent checked on their current partner.

It's not just revealing photos that people need to worry about. Some 23 percent of adults have had their personal content leaked to others without their permission. Sharing information increases the likelihood of leaked data and identity theft, according to the McAfee survey. Some 63 percen said they shared their bank account numbers with their relationship partners, 64 percent did likewise for health insurance IDs, 75 percent for e-mail accounts, and 47 peercent for passwords.

"Thankfully, majority of Indians (86 percent) password-protect their smartphones, hence, ensuring data safety from anyone who picks up the device to access their private content," said McAfee. "Given their affinity with technology and the importance placed on data, 78 percent regularly backed up or saved the content on their smartphones and about 98 percent Indians deleted any personal or intimate text or email messages and photos regularly."


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