Category Archives: Abuse

ADDICTION STATISTICS FACTS IN 2020

42 Addiction Statistics and Facts to Know in 2020

Written by Hristina Nikolovska / February 10, 2020

We’ve compiled the following list of addiction statistics from several verified sources to help educate you. Addiction is a big problem throughout the world, with a lot of people battling various forms of the disease. Because of addiction’s prevalence in the world today, it has become necessary to know the various forms this problem takes and the effects these substances have on us. 

When measuring addiction, it’s all about the quantity of the substance used and the frequency. In the US, the substance abuse facts show us that more than 23 million individuals from age 12 and up suffer from a type of substance abuse disorder. 

These statistics cover several substances, including cocaine, alcohol, and prescription medications, to give a better idea of the challenges those with an addiction face. As the following data will show, these substances affect people across all genders, races, and economic backgrounds. 

Important Addiction Statistics

This list contains some of our more intriguing statistics for a quick read:

  • Only 10% of Americans dealing with addiction receive treatment.
  • 4% of American teenagers struggle with a form of substance use disorder. 
  • 14.8% of young adults struggle with at least one form of substance use disorder.
  • 1 in every 16 adults reported having a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2017.
  • Meth is currently used by approximately 897,000 teenagers and adults in America, thus seriously contributing to the drug problem in America. 
  • Approximately 5 million Americans regularly use cocaine.
  • Approximately 16% of men in America smoke cigarettes.
  • 10% of the people who misuse opioids become addicted to them.

General Statistics on Addiction

1. Only 10% of Americans dealing with addiction receive treatment.

As stated earlier, there are over 23 million people in America struggling with at least one type of addiction. Out of these, very few get treatment. This leaves a lot of people trying to live with a substance addiction.

(USA Today)

2. More than 20% of Americans with an anxiety disorder also suffer from a drug use disorder.

This shows the direct relationship that anxiety and depression have with substance abuse. These may be factors that contribute to or affect drug abuse.

(NCBI)

3. Every year, 3.3 million fatalities occur due to alcohol consumption.

It’s also one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. These alcohol statistics include the results of short-term actions, such as reckless driving, or long-term health problems, such as cancer or liver disease.

(World Health Organization)

4. In 2017, approximately 38% of adults with substance use disorder symptoms had an illegal drug use disorder.

According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Illicit drug use refers to the abuse of any illegal drugs, as well as the misuse of certain prescription drugs. The list of illegal drugs includes heroin, marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, or methamphetamine.

(Bright Path Program)

5. Genetics and one’s environment have a large impact on addiction.

Why do people do drugs? Genetics, along with the impact one’s environment has on gene expression, accounts for about 40% to 60% of an individual’s risk of addiction.

(NCBI)

Teenage Drug Use Statistics (Ages 12–17)

6. 4% of American teenagers struggle with a form of substance use disorder. 

An estimated 992,000 adolescents—i.e., one in every 25 persons aged 12–17—experience some kind of challenge with substance abuse. 

(American Addiction Centers)

7. 443,000 adolescents aged 12–17 had alcohol use disorders in 2017.

This value correlates with 1.8% of all adolescents, and it shows that teens are more susceptible to the effects of drugs than adults. The 2017 numbers were somewhat lower than the figures from 2002 to 2015, though they were comparable to the 2016 estimate.

(SAMHSA)

8. Approximately 741,000 teenagers suffered from an illicit substance use disorder in 2017.

This corresponds to approximately 3% of teenagers aged 12 to 17 who admitted to having had an illicit drug use disorder. Additional addiction statistics show that an estimated 7.5 million individuals aged 12 and higher had at least one illicit drug use disorder.

(82717life and Drug War Facts)

Young Adults Age 18–25

9. 14.8% of young adults struggle with at least one form of substance use disorder.

In the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, it was discovered that 5.1 million people in the 18–25 age range struggle with a substance use disorder. This accounts for one out of every 7 people in this age group.

(Bright Path Program)

10. 7.3% of young adults admitted to having an illicit drug use disorder in 2017.

The substance abuse statistics show that about 2.5 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 reported struggling with an illicit or illegal drug use disorder in the previous year.

(American Addiction Centers)

Ages 26 and Older

11. In 2017, 5% of adults lived with an alcohol use disorder.

Roughly 10.6 million people aged 26 years and older struggled with alcoholism in 2017, according to the drug addiction statistics from 2017. It was also noted that the values obtained for 2017 were lower than most of the years leading up to it.

(NSDUH)

12. 1 in every 16 adults reported having a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2017.

Approximately 13.6 million people aged 26 years and older admitted to dealing with a substance use disorder. This value represents 6.4% of the total individuals in this age range.

(NSDUH)

Drug Use by Race and Region

13. Native Americans and Alaska Natives 12 years of age and up had the highest level of drug abuse in 2017.

In the survey carried out, 12.8% of Alaskan Natives and Native Americans had trouble with drug abuse or misuse. This is higher than the measured statistics in 2016, which recorded 11.7%.

(American Addiction Centers)

14. About 4.6% of Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians struggled with illnesses related to drug use in 2017.

These drug use statistics show that 4.6% of Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians struggled with drug use in 2017. This is lower than the 4.8% recorded in 2016’s results.

(American Addiction Centers)

15. Approximately 6.8% of African Americans struggled with drug use-related illnesses in 2017.

6.8% of African Americans, according to the drug statistics from 2017, had issues with drug use, while 6.6% of Latinos or Hispanics suffered from drug use illnesses. Compared with the values from 2016, the values are getting lower among African Americans (7.6%).

(American Addiction Centers)

Methamphetamine Addiction 

16. Meth is currently used by approximately 897,000 teenagers and adults in America. 

Research shows that untreated addiction to meth, one of the most abused drugs out there, can lead to potentially dangerous results. A considerable percentage (30%) of law enforcement agencies see it as the biggest drug threat and one that requires the most resources to tackle.

(Talbott Recovery)

17. Meth is involved in 85%–90% of stimulant-related drug fatalities.

Meth is responsible for causing the highest death toll among stimulant-related drugs, a concern we continue to see among the meth addiction facts. Data from 2015 add that 5,716 individuals died as a consequence of an overdose on stimulants. Worse, the number of deaths caused by stimulant drugs rose by a margin of 225% from 2005 to 2015.

(Talbott Recovery)

18. Admissions to meth addiction therapy increased by 3% from 2014 to 2015. 

These meth statistics show that some people, although few, are seeking treatment for their meth addiction. With more efforts made to educate people, the results should keep improving, and more people will be encouraged to get therapy for their addiction. These statistics also show that up to 135,264 people got help for meth addiction in publicly funded facilities in 2015.

(Talbott Recovery)

Cocaine Statistics

19. Approximately 5 million Americans regularly use cocaine.

In 2017, 2.2 million Americans reported having taken cocaine at least one time in the previous month. Nearly 4% of students in 12th grade admitted to using cocaine at least once in 2018.

(CDC and Addiction Center)

20. In 2017, cocaine was associated with 1 out of 5 overdose-related fatalities.  

This drug abuse statistic also states that the proportion of fatalities associated with cocaine overdose improved from 2016 to 2017 by a margin of 34%. The drug abuse facts verify that cocaine can result in organ damage, cause respiratory failure, and provoke mental disorders.

(CDC)

21. Approximately 966,000 American adults struggled with a cocaine use disorder in 2017.

Cocaine is one of the many substances that have contributed to widespread illegal drug use in America. These statistics also indicate that more than 5 million Americans use cocaine regularly.

(NY Post)

Tobacco Addiction

22. Around 34 million Americans smoke cigarettes. 

This is partly because cigarettes are relatively easy to buy once you’re over 18 years of age. The drug abuse statistics also report that the proportion of Americans smoking cigarettes fell from 21% in 2005 to 14% in 2017. About 604,000 Americans aged 12–17 and about 1.2 million Americans aged 18–21 smoked their first cigarette in 2017.

(Time) 

23. Approximately 16% of men in America smoke cigarettes.

Only 12% of American women smoke cigarettes. People who have the highest probability of using cigarettes are those who live in poverty, have a disability, or don’t have a university degree. Smoking cigarettes in the US results in more than 480,000 deaths each year.

(CDC)

Alcoholism Statistics

24. Of the 61.4% of students who drive in America, 7.8% of them have driven after drinking alcohol.

This shows that of the students who drive, 7.8% had driven one or more times after drinking alcohol. After drinking, the incidence of driving a car or other vehicle was greater among men (9.5%) than women (6%).

(Promises)

25. This disorder leads to over 200 distinct types of health conditions and injuries.

The alcohol abuse statistics indicate that alcohol abuse costs the US about $250 billion annually. According to data from 2016, approximately 15 million Americans are diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder every year, and an estimated 136 million Americans consume alcohol—which is about one-third of the population.

(The Recovery Village)

26. Approximately 2,200 individuals in the US die each year due to alcohol poisoning.

How many people die from alcohol? This comes out to an average of six people a day. Between 2010 and 2012, an estimated 76% of the deaths caused by alcohol poisoning were among adults aged 35–64.

(Promises)

27. Approximately 60%–70% of the married couples who have been in a physical altercation with each other abuse alcohol.

How many families in the US are affected by alcoholism? Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are an issue that can ruin a marriage or drive a wedge. Individuals who drink can blow through the family budget, cause fights, neglect their children, and otherwise impair the health and happiness of the individuals they love. In time, family members may even create symptoms of codependency, unintentionally keeping the addiction alive, even if it harms them. However, family therapy and rehabilitation can be of assistance.

(American Addiction Centers)

Opioid Addiction Statistics

28. Approximately 130 Americans die from issues due to an opioid overdose every day. 

Figures show that up to 399,230 Americans have died as a result of opioids between 1999 and 2017. In America alone, there were 47,600 recorded deadly overdoses in 2017, each involving a minimum of one opioid.

(Pharmacy Times and Addiction Center)

29. Approximately 21%–29% of patients misuse opioids meant for chronic pain.

The Opioid Crisis statistics show that this substance has had a drastic impact on the nation, resulting in public health concerns relating to social and economic welfare. Of the people who take prescription opioids, 21%–29% misuse them.

(NCBI)

30. Just in 2017, 2 million Americans misused prescription opioids for the first time.

A lot of individuals who misuse prescription opioids have a high probability of becoming opioid addicts. These same drug facts also state that around 2 million Americans struggle with an opioid use disorder.

(NIH)

31. Doctors released 191,218,272 opioid prescriptions in 2017.

This is a slight decrease from the 200 million opioid prescriptions that were released annually between 2006 and 2016. Worse, the rate at which opioid painkillers have been sold has risen by 300% since 1999. 

(CDC and Addiction Center)

Opioid Abuse Statistics by State

32. The number of opioid overdoses in big cities have risen by 54% in 16 states.

This statistic also notes that overdoses of opioids have risen by 30% in 52 locations across 45 states from July 2016 to September 2017. As you can see, the number of opioid overdoses, not to mention the overall use of drugs in America, has consistently been on the rise. 

(NBC News)

33. Approximately 80% of individuals who used heroin also misused prescription opioids.

This demonstrates the relationship between the use of prescription opioids and heroin. In a survey carried out in 2014, 94% of the respondents said they first used heroin because most prescription opioids are costlier and harder to obtain. The opioid abuse statistics also go on to show that approximately 4% to 6% of people who misuse heroin had made a shift from prescription opioids. It’s estimated that up to 23% of all the people who take heroin have also developed an addiction to opioids.

(NIH and Addiction Center)

34. 10% of the people who misuse opioids become addicted to them.

The opioid addiction facts show that most people don’t think it’s a big deal to frequently share their unused pain relievers, apparently oblivious to the hazards of non-medical opioid use. When a friend or relative gives opioids to an adolescent, there’s a good chance they will misuse the prescription pain relievers and possibly even develop an addiction.

(Addiction Center)

Heroin Addiction Statistics

35. 886,000 Americans used heroin at least once in 2017.

The statistics counting the number of people who used heroin in America are on the high side. About 494,000 people frequently use heroin. In 2017, 81,000 Americans took heroin for the first time.

(Niznik Behavioral Health and Addiction Center)

36. People addicted to prescription drugs are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.

These heroin addiction facts show that alcohol addicts are twice as likely to also be addicted to heroin, while cannabis addicts are 3 times as likely, and cocaine addicts are 15 times as likely. This demonstrates a clear correlation between heroin addiction and addiction to other substances.

(American Addiction Centers)

37. 25% of those who abuse heroin will likely become addicted to it.

The heroin statistics continue to prove that it’s a highly addictive substance. Obviously, it’s never a good idea to try it because the chances of getting addicted are too great. This is why the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in most demographic groups in the US, the use of heroin has increased over the previous two centuries.

(Addiction Center)

Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics

38. In 2017, around 1.7 million individuals over 12 years old had a prescription pain reliever use disorder.

According to these statistics, 0.6% of people 12 years old and upwards have a disorder associated with pain reliever abuse. In addition, in 2017, tranquilizers, pain relievers, sedatives, and stimulants were some of the most abused prescription drugs.

(Surgeon General and American Addiction Centers)

39. Opioid painkillers account for 38.2% of drug overdose fatalities.

Prescription drug abuse leads to the biggest proportion of drug overdose fatalities. Of the 22,400 people who died from a drug overdose in the United States recorded in 2005, the most frequently found drug was opioid painkillers, at 38.2%. 

(Foundation for a Drug-Free World)

Marijuana Addiction Statistics

40. Approximately 4.1 million adults in America over 12 years of age struggled with a marijuana use disorder in 2017.

The majority of individuals dealing with marijuana addiction issues were in the age range of 12–25. In 2014, nearly 6% of full-time US university students smoked cannabis daily. This is more than 3 times the number of daily smokers 20 years ago in this demographic.

(American Addiction Centers)

41. Each year, approximately 30–40 million Americans use marijuana by smoking it. 

What is the most commonly used illicit drug among persons aged 12 and older? In 2017, about 1.2 million Americans aged 12–17 and 525,000 over 26 years used marijuana for the first time. Marijuana is increasingly becoming legal across the United States, both for medical and recreational use, but it still isn’t entirely secure because it can be addictive and cause health issues. 

(Addiction Center)

42. About 30% of individuals who admit to using marijuana frequently have a disorder with marijuana use.

The marijuana addiction facts show that at least once in the previous year, 13% of 8th graders, 27% of 10th graders, and 35% of 12th graders used marijuana. Less than 1% of 8th graders, approximately 3% of 10th grade students, and approximately 5% of 12th graders reported using it daily. Marijuana’s average batch has become stronger, which has increased the overall number of marijuana deaths per year. The average marijuana batch in 1990 contained less than 4% THC, but that proportion has since increased to over 12%. 

(Addiction Center)

The Primary Causes of Drug Addiction

  • Adolescents and individuals with mental health disorders have a greater risk of drug use and addiction than other groups.
  • Genetics, including the effect of one’s setting on gene expression, accounts for approximately 40% to 60% of a person’s risk of addiction, according to the addiction stats.
  • Environmental variables may boost a person’s risk of addiction to prescription drugs and their abuse. These could include parents’ substance use and their attitude toward medicines, peer influences, a messy home environment and abuse, community attitudes toward medicine, and poor academic achievement.

Conclusion

Addiction can harm a person’s normal activities and damage their relationships with friends and loved ones. However, there are several treatment procedures that are proven to be helpful with addiction. These addiction statistics should educate readers about the dangerous effects of addiction and help them make better choices.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN YOUR PHONE HAS BEEN HACKED

by Natasha Stokes on May 01, 2019

Techlicious editors independently review products. To help support our mission, we may earn affiliate commissions from links contained on this page.

From email to banking, our smartphones are the main hub of our online lives. No wonder that smartphones are starting to stack up to computers as common targets for online hackers.

Security researchers recently revealed one attack campaign that released malicious Android apps that were nearly identical to legitimate secure messaging programs, including WhatsApp and Signal, tricking thousands of people in nearly 20 countries into installing it. These apps were downloaded via a website called Secure Android, and once installed, gave hackers access to photos, location information, audio capture, and message contents. According to EFF Staff Technology Cooper Quentin, of note is that the malware did not involve a sophisticated software exploit, but instead only required “application permissions that users themselves granted when they downloaded the apps, not realizing that they contained malware.”

Malware is often downloaded from non-official sources, including phishing links sent via email or message, as well as malicious websites such as the Secure Android site mentioned above. (While security experts recommend always downloading from official app stores – like the Apple App Store or Google Play – some countries are unable to access certain apps from these sources, for example, secure messaging apps that would allow people to communicate secretly.

Across the board, mobile malware has been on the riseup – in part due to an increase in political spies trying to break into the devices of persons of interest. Once this malware is online, other criminals are able to exploit compromised devices too. Malware can include spyware that monitors a device’s content, programs that harness a device’s internet bandwidth for use in a botnet to send spam, or phishing screens that steal a user’s logins when entered into a compromised, legitimate app.

Then there are the commercial spy apps that require physical access to download to a phone – often done by those well-known to the victim such as a partner or parent – and which can monitor everything that occurs on the device.

Not sure if you may have been hacked? We spoke to Josh Galindo, director of training at uBreakiFix, about how to tell a smartphone might have been compromised. And, we explore the seven ways your phone can be hacked and the steps you can take to protect yourself.

6 Signs your phone may have been hacked

1. Noticeable decrease in battery life

While a phone’s battery life inevitably decreases over time, a smartphone that has been compromised by malware may start to display a significantly decreased lifespan. This is because the malware – or spy app – may be using up phone resources to scan the device and transmit the information back to a criminal server.

(That said, simple everyday use can equally deplete a phone’s lifespan. Check if that’s the case by running through these steps for improving your Android or iPhone battery life.

2. Sluggish performance

Do you find your phone frequently freezing, or certain applications crashing? This could be down to malware that is overloading the phone’s resources or clashing with other applications.

You may also experience continued running of applications despite efforts to close them, or even have the phone itself crash and/or restart repeatedly.

(As with reduced battery life, many factors could contribute to a slower phone – essentially, its everyday use, so first try deep cleaning your Android or iPhone.)

3. High data usage

Another sign of a compromised phone is an unusually high data bill at the end of the month, which can come from malware or spy apps running in the background, sending information back to its server.

4. Outgoing calls or texts you didn’t send

If you’re seeing lists of calls or texts to numbers you don’t know, be wary – these could be premium-rate numbers that malware is forcing your phone to contact; the proceeds of which land in the cyber-crim’s wallet. In this case, check your phone bill for any costs you don’t recognise.

5. Mystery pop-ups

While not all pop-ups mean your phone has been hacked, constant pop-up alerts could indicate that your phone has been infected with adware, a form of malware that forces devices to view certain pages that drive revenue through clicks. Even if a pop-up isn’t the result of a compromised phone, many may be phishing links that attempt to get users to type in sensitive info – or download more malware. The vast majority of such pop-ups can be neutralised simply by shutting the window – though be sure you’re clicking the right X, as many are designed to shunt users towards clicking an area that instead opens up the target, sometimes malicious, site.

6. Unusual activity on any accounts linked to the device

If a hacker has access to your phone, they also have access to its accounts – from social media to email to various lifestyle or productivity apps. This could reveal itself in activity on your accounts, such as resetting a password, sending emails, marking unread emails that you don’t remember reading, or signing up for new accounts whose verification emails land in your inbox.

In this case, you could be at risk for identity fraud, where criminals open new accounts or lines of credit in your name, using information taken from your breached accounts. It’s a good idea to change your passwords – without updating them on your phone – before running a security sweep on your phone itself.

SOS steps

If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms of a hacked smartphone, the best first step is to download a mobile security app.

For Android, we like Avast, which not only scans for malware but offers a call blocker, firewall, VPN, and a feature to request a PIN every time certain apps are used – preventing malware from opening sensitive apps such as your online banking.

iPhones may be less prone to hacks, but they aren’t totally immune. Lookout for iOS flags apps that are acting maliciously, potentially dangerous Wi-Fi networks,  and if the iPhone has been jailbroken (which increases its risk for hacking). It’s free, with $9.99/month for identity protection, including alerts of logins being exposed.

Who would hack your phone?

By now, government spying is such a common refrain that we may have become desensitized to the notion that the NSA taps our phone calls or the FBI can hack our computers whenever it wants. Yet there are other technological means – and motives – for hackers, criminals and even the people we know, such as a spouse or employer, to hack into our phones and invade our privacy.

7 ways your phone can be hacked

From targeted breaches and vendetta-fueled snooping to opportunistic land grabs for the data of the unsuspecting, here are seven ways someone could be spying on your cell phone – and what you can do about it.

1. Spy apps

There is a glut of phone monitoring apps designed to covertly track someone’s location and snoop on their communications. Many are advertised to suspicious partners or distrustful employers, but still more are marketed as a legitimate tool for safety-concerned parents to keep tabs on their kids. Such apps can be used to remotely view text messages, emails, internet history, and photos; log phone calls and GPS locations; some may even hijack the phone’s mic to record conversations made in person. Basically, almost anything a hacker could possible want to do with your phone, these apps would allow.

And this isn’t just empty rhetoric. When we studied cell phone spying apps back in 2013, we found they could do everything they promised. Worse, they were easy for anyone to install, and the person who was being spied on would be none the wiser that there every move was being tracked.

“There aren’t too many indicators of a hidden spy app – you might see more internet traffic on your bill, or your battery life may be shorter than usual because the app is reporting back to a third-party,” says Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at security firm Sophos.

Likelihood

Spy apps are available on Google Play, as well as non-official stores for iOS and Android apps, making it pretty easy for anyone with access to your phone (and a motive) to download one.

How to protect yourself

  • Since installing spy apps require physical access to your device, putting a passcode on your phone greatly reduces the chances of someone being able to access your phone in the first place. And since spy apps are often installed by someone close to you (think spouse or significant other), pick a code that won’t be guessed by anyone else.
  • Go through your apps list for ones you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t jailbreak your iPhone. “If a device isn’t jailbroken, all apps show up,” says Wisniewski. “If it is jailbroken, spy apps are able to hide deep in the device, and whether security software can find it depends on the sophistication of the spy app [because security software scans for known malware].”
  • For iPhones, ensuring you phone isn’t jailbroken also prevents anyone from downloading a spy app to your phone, since such software – which tampers with system-level functions – doesn’t make it onto the App Store.
  • Download a mobile security app. For Android, we like Avast and for iOS, we recommend Lookout for iOS.

2. Phishing by message

Whether it’s a text claiming to be from your financial institution, or a friend exhorting you to check out this photo of you last night, SMSes containing deceptive links that aim to scrape sensitive information (otherwise known as phishing or “smishing”) continue to make the rounds.

Android phones may also fall prey to messages with links to download malicious apps. (The same scam isn’t prevalent for iPhones, which are commonly non-jailbroken and therefore can’t download apps from anywhere except the App Store.)

Such malicious apps may expose a user’s phone data, or contain a phishing overlay designed to steal login information from targeted apps – for example, a user’s bank or email app.

Likelihood

Quite likely. Though people have learned to be skeptical of emails asking them to “click to see this funny video!”, security lab Kaspersky notes that they tend to be less wary on their phones.

How to protect yourself

  • Keep in mind how you usually verify your identity with various accounts – for example, your bank will never ask you to input your full password or PIN.
  • Avoid clicking links from numbers you don’t know, or in curiously vague messages from friends, especially if you can’t see the full URL.
  • If you do click on the link and end up downloading an app, your Android phone should notify you. Delete the app and/or run a mobile security scan.

3. SS7 global phone network vulnerability

A communication protocol for mobile networks across the world, Signalling System No 7 (SS7), has a vulnerability that lets hackers spy on text messages, phone calls and locations, armed only with someone’s mobile phone number. An added concern is that text message is a common means to receive two-factor authentication codes from, say, email services or financial institutions – if these are intercepted, an enterprising hacker could access protected accounts, wrecking financial and personal havoc.

According to security researcher Karsten Nohl, law enforcement and intelligence agencies use the exploit to intercept cell phone data, and hence don’t necessarily have great incentive to seeing that it gets patched.

Likelihood

Extremely unlikely, unless you’re a political leader, CEO or other person whose communications could hold high worth for criminals. Journalists or dissidents travelling in politically restless countries may be at an elevated risk for phone tapping.

How to protect yourself

  • Use an end-to-end encrypted message service that works over the internet (thus bypassing the SS7 protocol), says Wisniewski. WhatsApp (free, iOS/Android), Signal (free, iOS/Android) and Wickr Me (free, iOS/Android) all encrypt messages and calls, preventing anyone from intercepting or interfering with your communications.
  • Be aware that if you are in a potentially targeted group your phone conversations could be monitored and act accordingly.

4. Snooping via open Wi-Fi networks

Thought that password-free Wi-Fi network with full signal bars was too good to be true? It might just be. Eavesdroppers on an unsecured Wi-Fi network can view all its unencrypted traffic. And nefarious public hotspots can redirect you to lookalike banking or email sites designed to capture your username and password. And it’s not necessarily a shifty manager of the establishment you’re frequenting. For example, someone physically across the road from a popular coffee chain could set up a login-free Wi-Fi network named after the café, in hopes of catching useful login details for sale or identity theft.

Likelihood

Any tech-savvy person could potentially download the necessary software to intercept and analyze Wi-Fi traffic – including your neighbor having a laugh at your expense (you weren’t browsing NSFW websites again, were you?).

How to protect yourself

  • Only use secured networks where all traffic is encrypted by default during transmission to prevent others from snooping on your Wi-Fi signal.
  • Download a VPN app to encrypt your smartphone traffic. ExpressVPN (Android/iOS from $6.67/month) is a great all-round choice that offers multi-device protection, for your tablet and laptop for example.
  • If you must connect to a public network and don’t have a VPN app, avoid entering in login details for banking sites or email. If you can’t avoid it, ensure the URL in your browser address bar is the correct one. And never enter private information unless you have a secure connection to the other site (look for “https” in the URL and a green lock icon in the address bar).

5. Unauthorized access to iCloud or Google account

Hacked iCloud and Google accounts offer access to an astounding amount of information backed up from your smartphone – photos, phonebooks, current location, messages, call logs and in the case of the iCloud Keychain, saved passwords to email accounts, browsers and other apps. And there are spyware sellers out there who specifically market their products against these vulnerabilities.

Online criminals may not find much value in the photos of regular folk – unlike nude pictures of celebrities that are quickly leaked– but they know the owners of the photos do, says Wisniewski, which can lead to accounts and their content being held digitally hostage unless victims pay a ransom.

Additionally, a cracked Google account means a cracked Gmail, the primary email for many users.

Having access to a primary email can lead to domino-effect hacking of all the accounts that email is linked to – from your Facebook account to your mobile carrier account, paving the way for a depth of identity theft that would seriously compromise your credit.

Likelihood

“This is a big risk. All an attacker needs is an email address; not access to the phone, nor the phone number,” Wisniewski says. If you happen to use your name in your email address, your primary email address to sign up for iCloud/Google, and a weak password that incorporates personally identifiable information, it wouldn’t be difficult for a hacker who can easily glean such information from social networks or search engines.

How to protect yourself

  • Create a strong password for these key accounts (and as always, your email).
  • Enable login notifications so you’re aware of sign-ins from new computers or locations.
  • Enable two-factor authentication so that even if someone discovers your password they can’t access your account without access to your phone.
  • To prevent someone resetting your password, lie when setting up password security questions. You would be amazed how many security questions rely on information that is easily available on the Internet or is widely known by your family and friends.

6. Malicious charging stations

Well-chosen for a time when smartphones barely last the day and Google is the main way to not get lost, this hack leverages our ubiquitous need for juicing our phone battery, malware be damned. Malicious charging stations – including malware-loaded computers – take advantage of the fact that standard USB cables transfer data as well as charge battery. Older Android phones may even automatically mount the hard drive upon connection to any computer, exposing its data to an unscrupulous owner.

Security researchers have also shown it’s possible to hijack the video-out feature on most recent phones so that when plugged into a malicious charge hub, a hacker can monitor every keystroke, including passwords and sensitive data.

Likelihood

Low. There are no widely known instances of hackers exploiting the video-out function, while newer Android phones ask for permission to load their hard drive when plugged into a new computer; iPhones request a PIN. However, new vulnerabilities may be discovered.

How to protect yourself

  • Don’t plug into unknown devices; bring a wall charger. You might want to invest in a charge-only USB cable like PortaPow ($6.99 on Amazon)
  • If a public computer is your only option to revive a dead battery, select the “Charge only” option (Android phones) if you get a pop-up when you plug in, or deny access from the other computer (iPhone).

7. FBI’s StingRay (and other fake cellular towers)

An ongoing initiative by the FBI to tap phones in the course of criminal investigations (or indeed, peaceful protests) involves the use of cellular surveillance devices (the eponymous StingRays) that mimic bona fide network towers.

StingRays, and similar pretender wireless carrier towers, force nearby cell phones to drop their existing carrier connection to connect to the StingRay instead, allowing the device’s operators to monitor calls and texts made by these phones, their movements, and the numbers of who they text and call.

As StingRays have a radius of about 1km, an attempt to monitor a suspect’s phone in a crowded city center could amount to tens of thousands of phones being tapped.

Until late 2015, warrants weren’t required for StingRay-enabled cellphone tracking; currently, around a dozen states outlaw the use of eavesdropping tech unless in criminal investigations, yet many agencies don’t obtain warrants for their use.

Likelihood

While the average citizen isn’t the target of a StingRay operation, it’s impossible to know what is done with extraneous data captured from non-targets, thanks to tight-lipped federal agencies.

How to protect yourself

  • Use encrypted messaging and voice call apps, particularly if you enter a situation that could be of government interest, such as a protest. Signal (free, iOS/Android) and Wickr Me (free, iOS/Android) both encrypt messages and calls, preventing anyone from intercepting or interfering with your communications. Most encryption in use today isn’t breakable, says Wisniewski, and a single phone call would take 10-15 years to decrypt.

“The challenging thing is, what the police have legal power to do, hackers can do the same,” Wisniewski says. “We’re no longer in the realm of technology that costs millions and which only the military have access to. Individuals with intent to interfere with communications have the ability to do so.”

From security insiders to less tech-savvy folk, many are already moving away from traditional, unencrypted communications – and perhaps in several years, it’ll be unthinkable that we ever allowed our private conversations and information to fly through the ether unprotected.

FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION MUST BE STOP NOW

Female genital mutilation

3 February 2020

 

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The practice has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • FGM can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated (1).
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • WHO is opposed to all forms of FGM, and is opposed to health care providers performing FGM (medicalization of FGM).
  • Treatment of health complications of FGM in 27 high prevalence countries costs 1.4 billion USD per year.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. In many settings, health care providers perform FGM due to the belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized1. WHO strongly urges health care providers not to perform FGM.

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

Types of FGM

Female genital mutilation is classified into 4 major types.

  • Type 1:  this is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans (the external and visible part of the clitoris, which is a sensitive part of the female genitals), and/or the prepuce/ clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoral glans).
  • Type 2:  this is the partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without removal of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva ).
  • Type 3: Also known as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoral prepuce/clitoral hood and glans (Type I FGM).
  • Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.

Deinfibulation refers to the practice of cutting open the sealed vaginal opening of a woman who has been infibulated, which is often necessary for improving health and well-being as well as to allow intercourse or to facilitate childbirth.

No health benefits, only harm

FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. Generally speaking, risks of FGM increase with increasing severity (which here corresponds to the amount of tissue damaged), although all forms of FGM are associated with increased health risk.

Immediate complications can include:

  • severe pain
  • excessive bleeding (haemorrhage)
  • genital tissue swelling
  • fever
  • infections e.g., tetanus
  • urinary problems
  • wound healing problems
  • injury to surrounding genital tissue
  • shock
  • death.

Long-term complications can include:

  • urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections);
  • vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections);
  • menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.);
  • scar tissue and keloid;
  • sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.);
  • increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths;
  • need for later surgeries: for example, the sealing or narrowing of the vaginal opening (Type 3) may lead to the practice of cutting open the sealed vagina later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth (deinfibulation). Sometimes genital tissue is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks;
  • psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.);

Who is at risk?

FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and adolescence, and occasionally on adult women. More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.

More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice , according to data from 30 countries where population data exist. 1.

The practice is mainly concentrated in the Western, Eastern, and North-Eastern regions of Africa, in some countries the Middle East and Asia, as well as among migrants from these areas. FGM is therefore a global concern.

Cultural and social factors for performing FGM

The reasons why female genital mutilations are performed vary from one region to another as well as over time, and include a mix of sociocultural factors within families and communities. The most commonly cited reasons are:

  • Where FGM is a social convention (social norm), the social pressure to conform to what others do and have been doing, as well as the need to be accepted socially and the fear of being rejected by the community, are strong motivations to perpetuate the practice. In some communities, FGM is almost universally performed and unquestioned.
  • FGM is often considered a necessary part of raising a girl, and a way to prepare her for adulthood and marriage.
  • FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour. It aims to ensure premarital virginity and marital fidelity. FGM is in many communities believed to reduce a woman’s libido and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts. When a vaginal opening is covered or narrowed (Type 3), the fear of the pain of opening it, and the fear that this will be found out, is expected to further discourage extramarital sexual intercourse among women with this type of FGM.
  • Where it is believed that being cut increases marriageability, FGM is more likely to be carried out.
  • FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male.
  • Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.
  • Religious leaders take varying positions with regard to FGM: some promote it, some consider it irrelevant to religion, and others contribute to its elimination.
  • Local structures of power and authority, such as community leaders, religious leaders, circumcisers, and even some medical personnel can contribute to upholding the practice. Likewise, when informed, they can be effective advocates for abandonment of FGM.
  • In most societies, where FGM is practised, it is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.
  • In some societies, recent adoption of the practice is linked to copying the traditions of neighbouring groups. Sometimes it has started as part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.

 A financial burden for countries

WHO has conducted a study of the economic costs of treating health complications of FGM and has found that the current costs for 27 countries where data were available totaled 1.4 billion USD during a one year period (2018). This amount is expected to rise to 2.3 billion in 30 years (2047) if FGM prevalence remains the same – corresponding to a 68% increase in the costs of inaction. However, if countries abandon FGM, these costs would decrease by 60% over the next 30 years.

International response

Building on work from previous decades, in 1997, WHO issued a joint statement against the practice of FGM together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Since 1997, great efforts have been made to counteract FGM, through research, work within communities, and changes in public policy. Progress at international, national and sub-national levels includes:

  • wider international involvement to stop FGM;
  • international monitoring bodies and resolutions that condemn the practice;
  • revised legal frameworks and growing political support to end FGM (this includes a law against FGM in 26 countries in Africa and the Middle East, as well as in 33 other countries with migrant populations from FGM practicing countries);
  • the prevalence of FGM has decreased in most countries and an increasing number of women and men in practising communities support ending its practice.

Research shows that, if practicing communities themselves decide to abandon FGM, the practice can be eliminated very rapidly.

In 2007, UNFPA and UNICEF initiated the Joint Programme on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting to accelerate the abandonment of the practice.

In 2008, WHO together with 9 other United Nations partners, issued a statement on the elimination of FGM to support increased advocacy for its abandonment, called: “Eliminating female genital mutilation: an interagency statement”. This statement provided evidence collected over the previous decade about the practice of FGM.

In 2010, WHO published a “Global strategy to stop health care providers from performing female genital mutilation” in collaboration with other key UN agencies and international organizations. WHO supports countries to implement this strategy.

In December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the elimination of female genital mutilation.

Building on a previous report from 2013, in 2016 UNICEF launched an updated report documenting the prevalence of FGM in 30 countries, as well as beliefs, attitudes, trends, and programmatic and policy responses to the practice globally.

In May 2016, WHO in collaboration with the UNFPA-UNICEF joint programme on FGM launched the first evidence-based guidelines on the management of health complications from FGM. The guidelines were developed based on a systematic review of the best available evidence on health interventions for women living with FGM.

In 2018, WHO launched a clinical handbook on FGM to improve knowledge, attitudes, and skills of health care providers in preventing and managing the complications of FGM.

WHO response

In 2008, the World Health Assembly passed resolution WHA61.16 on the elimination of FGM, emphasizing the need for concerted action in all sectors – health, education, finance, justice and women’s affairs.

WHO efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation focus on:

  • strengthening the health sector response: developing and implementing guidelines, tools, training and policy to ensure that health care providers can provide medical care and counselling to girls and women living with FGM and communicate for prevention of the practice;
  • building evidence: generating knowledge about the causes, consequences and costs of the practice, including why health care providers carry out the practice, how to abandon the practice, and how to care for those who have experienced FGM;
  • increasing advocacy: developing publications and advocacy tools for international, regional and local efforts to end FGM, including tools for policy makers and advocates to estimate the health burden of FGM and the potential public health benefits and cost savings of preventing FGM.

This is a brutal an inhuman act of the human race. Please help to stop such unfair action by sharing this article.

A. Santiago

Publisher & Editor

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