Are Women
Better Surfers?

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Are Women Better Surfers?

A cyberpsychology study commissioned by Kaspersky Lab shows that men are more frequently victims of drive-by downloads; women of phishing attacks.

Women can’t drive; men don’t talk about their feelings. We’re all familiar with the stereotypes. But are things the same online? Are there differences between men and women in the virtual world, too? Does one gender surf more securely than the other, or have cybercriminals already tailored their tactics to take into account gender-specific preferences? Media psychologists are currently researching gender-based behaviour patterns in social networks and on the web[1], while Kaspersky Lab recognises the security risks — for both sexes.

In many respects, the world of technology is still a man’s world. If we look at current stereotypes, it's no wonder: men are more talented in the sciences; they know more about technology and are better at using computers. But what about online security?

Over the past few years, women have caught up: whereas the Internet, in its infancy, was truly a male domain, nowadays women are involved in many aspects of it. According to the UN database and Eurostat[2], there is no (longer a) major difference in usage: in 2013, 87 percent of men and 81 percent of women in Germany were online.

The Cyber-Difference Between Men and Women

Among the younger generation, in particular, (almost) everyone is online -both men and women. There are, however, differences in the way the genders use the Internet. These are particularly apparent in gaming, videos and music: areas in which men are more active than women. By contrast, more women than men use social networking sites[3].

Psychology offers potential explanations for this.

“In short, men are more competitive in their behaviour, whether online or offline. Strength, combat and victory tend to be more important to them than they are to women. This is one reason why typical online games are more attractive to them,” explains Dr Astrid Carolus, a media psychologist at the University of Würzburg.

The situation on social networking sites is different. Here, both genders are active. People are social beings and seek contact with others, whether in real life or online. Women are, however, more active on these sites. For them, communication with others is more important than the opportunity for direct competition. Networking sites fulfil this need perfectly[3].

These differences between the sexes are also modelled in our brains. Brain structures responsible for the processing of social and emotional information are more strongly defined in women than in men. This is evidence that there is, indeed, some biological truth behind the stereotype of the emotional, empathetic woman[4].

But what about risk behaviour while surfing? A current survey carried out by Kaspersky Lab[5] confirms that there is a gender-specific difference in the consequences of malware infection. 26 percent of the German men surveyed admitted to suffering a financial loss due to a malware infection, compared to just 14 percent of the women.

“Both men and women should always be aware of what they are doing on the Internet and what they need to watch out for when it comes to IT security,” says Holger Suhl, General Manager DACH at Kaspersky Lab. “If women use social media more, they should, for example, pay more attention to phishing attacks against Facebook users. Men who frequently visit game, music or video sites should be aware of the risk of drive-by downloads.”

According to Kaspersky analyses, seven of the top 20 Internet pests of the past year have been threats implemented via drive-by-download attacks[6]. Drive-by-downloads currently pose the biggest threat to Internet users, who can be infected simply by visiting a compromised website.

On the subject of phishing on social media sites, a Kaspersky analysis shows[7] that, in the first quarter of 2014, around every 11th phishing attempt detected by Kaspersky Lab was aimed at capturing login details for a Facebook account.

How users can prevent identity theft and protect themselves against it is shown by the Kaspersky Lab analysis “Social Network Frauds”, which can be accessed via the following page:



[2] [FS1] 

[3] — Richard Joiner, Jeff Gavin, Mark Brosnan, John Cromby, Helen Gregory, Jane Guiller, Pam Maras, and Amy Moon. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. July 2012, 15(7): 370-372. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0033

[4] — Koscik, T., Bechara, A., & Tranel, D. (2010). Sex-related functional asymmetry in the limbic brain. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35.

[5] The survey was commissioned by Kaspersky Lab and carried out by B2B International in 2014. A total of 11,135 users from 23 different countries participated, including 2,821 from Europe.



About Kaspersky Lab

Kaspersky Lab is the world's largest privately held vendor of endpoint protection solutions. The company is ranked among the world's top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users*. Throughout its more than 16-year history Kaspersky Lab has remained an innovator in IT security and provides effective digital security solutions for large enterprises, SMBs and consumers. Kaspersky Lab, with its holding company registered in the United Kingdom, currently operates in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe, providing protection for over 300 million users worldwide. Learn more at

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About Cyberpsychology:

Our Psyche Under the Influence of the Internet

The Internet has become today’s defining medium and considerably influences the behaviour of many people. Our experiences in social media, our relationships with end devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops, and the ways in which our immediate physical environment is being artificially expanded by “cyberspace”, are all part and parcel of the field of “media psychology”.

What are social apps, online videos, Internet communities, online shops and chat forums doing to us? If, in the 1960s, TV was postulated as a “second-hand reality”, what effect will the increasing electronic networking of humanity with a variety of increasingly intelligent technologies and end devices have? Are our online lives riskier than our real ones? Do we need digital risk literacy? Could some of us already be cyberpsychos?

Kaspersky Lab researched this question in collaboration with Professor Dr Frank Schwab and Dr Astrid Carolus from the Working Unit for Media Psychology at the University of Würzburg, and will be publishing its findings in an occasional series.