Hardly ten days into this year’s pride month, cyber attacks on LGBTQ activists and communities have seen a spike.
In recent times, the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) community has made significant progress in advocating for equal rights and recognition. However, along with this progress, new challenges have emerged. One such challenge is the rise of cyber attacks on LGBTQ community.
The latest in the list is a post made by Kerala Cyber Xtractors, a notorious hyperlocal hacking group located in the southern part of India, allegedly hacked the website of LBGTQ Foundation and asserted that they had taken down the website.
The threat actor posted its message on its Telegram channel, condemning the LGBTQ community and mocking it with hashtags such as #AntiLGBTQ, #Reject_LGBTQ, and #BanLGBTQ. However, the unfortunate part of these cyber attacks on LGBTQ doesn’t stop here.
However, at the time of writing, the website was operational and showed no signs of attack. The DNS lookup did not reflect downtime. The alleged attack comes at a time when the LGBTQIA+ community and advocates are celebrating the Pride Month,
From cyberbullying to data breaches and online harassment, the LGBTQ community faces various cyber threats that can have severe consequences. This article explores the alarming rise of cyber attacks on LGBTQ community and highlights the urgent need for enhanced protection and awareness.
Rising cyber attacks on LGBTQ communities
Cyber attacks on LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) communities have become a troubling reality in today’s digital age, with individuals facing several challenges online, including online harassment, doxing, hacking, and spreading hate speech.
It has seeped all the way up to government administrations, even in seemingly progressive nations.
The legal oppression of the LGBTQ community in the US was so intense in the past five months that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBTQ advocacy organization in the United States, declared a national state of emergency.
These attacks violate personal privacy, pose risks to physical safety, and have severe emotional consequences. A recent incident in Orlando, Florida, highlights the severity of the issue. A traffic sign was hacked to display a hateful message: “Kill All Gays.”
Occurring on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, this act serves as a degrading reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hate faced by the LGBTQ community.
Cyberbullying and online harassment
Cyberbullying is a pervasive issue that affects many marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ population. According to a survey by the Anti-Defamation League, 64% of LGBTQ respondents reported experiencing online harassment, reported ReasonLabs.
Disturbingly, LGBTQ individuals are more likely to face severe forms of cyberbullying, such as the distribution of humiliating photos, false information, and lies.
Apart from these, a separate survey on cyberbullying revealed that 73% of LGBTQ individuals have experienced online abuse, and 50% have encountered sexual harassment online.
These attacks take various forms, including trolling, exclusion, outing, and cyberstalking. They transcend geographical boundaries, making cyber threats a global problem for LGBTQ communities.
Dating app risks
Dating apps have played a crucial role in connecting LGBTQ individuals, providing a platform for finding love, companionship, and acceptance.
However, these apps also present security risks. Popular platforms like OkCupid, Grindr, and HER have experienced their fair share of data breaches and security vulnerabilities, exposing the personal information of their users.
In 2012, an Australian hacker compromised the data of hundreds of thousands of users on Grindr. More recently, in April 2021, the gay dating app Manhunt suffered a significant data breach affecting over 600,000 users, reported ReasonLabs.
Once personal data is compromised, it can be used for nefarious purposes such as identity theft, extortion, catfishing, and public embarrassment.
For LGBTQ individuals residing in regions where their lifestyle is stigmatized or illegal, such breaches can have life-threatening consequences.
Impacts and consequences
The consequences of cyber attacks on LGBTQ community are far-reaching. The exposure of personal information can result in irreversible damage to family relationships, employment prospects, and friendships.
Being outed or publicly humiliated can lead to physical harm or persecution for those living in oppressive environments.
Moreover, the psychological toll of cyberbullying and online harassment on LGBTQ individuals is immense. The constant fear of being targeted online can significantly impact mental health and overall well-being.
Protection measures and government initiatives cyber attacks on LGBTQ communities
Recognizing the situation’s urgency, the Biden-Harris Administration has taken significant steps to safeguard the LGBTQI+ community.
During Pride Month, the administration announced new actions to protect LGBTQI+ communities from attacks on their rights and safety.
The administration has launched the LGBTQI+ Community Safety Partnership to enhance protections and support for the LGBTQI+ community.
Additionally, the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department will be the liaison to the LGBTQI+ community, ensuring their rights are protected.
Efforts to support LGBTQI+ youth are also underway, including strengthening mental health resources, addressing LGBTQI+ youth homelessness, and funding programs that help parents affirm their LGBTQI+ kids.
Furthermore, the Department of Education aims to combat the growing threat of book bans, which endanger students’ civil rights.
As the LGBTQ community continues to fight for equality and acceptance, addressing the increasing cyber threats they face is imperative. Governments, organizations, and individuals must work together to enhance cybersecurity measures, raise awareness, and create safe online spaces for the LGBTQ community.
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