What is cyberstalking, and why should we be concerned about it? According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of Americans have been subjected to internet bullying. While women are most commonly targeted by cyberstalkers, 20-40% of them are males. Are you surprised? Anyway, let’s take a closer look at tech-assisted bullying. What are the most effective ways to protect oneself from cyberstalking on the internet today? Is it possible to avoid becoming a cyberstalker victim if you visit dangerous websites or engage in questionable online activities? What precautions should be taken when browsing the web, and how can one prevent themselves from being harassed on the internet?
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What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking uses electronic or digital technologies, such as social media, email, instant messaging (IM), or postings to a discussion group or forum to pursue and harass a victim. Cyberstalkers profit from the internet’s anonymity to stalk or intimidate their targets, albeit rarely detected, convicted, or even recognized. Cyberstalking is not frequently resolved without intervention. Statistics show that cyberstalking tends to worsen in almost 75% of incidents.
Stalking is defined as “A pattern of fixated and obsessive behavior that is repeated, persistent, intrusive, and causes fear of violence or alarm or distress in the victim” by Protection Against Stalking, a specialist stalking charity. Stalkers are frequently known to the victim, usually an ex-intimate partner, a coworker, or an acquaintance. However, in the internet world, a stalker can be anybody. It is a really good explanation of what is cyberstalking.
Cyberstalking may start as a seemingly harmless exchange of words or actions. A few peculiar or even unpleasant tweets might amuse you at first, but they become irritating and frightening if they become routine.
If you’ve had a few negative comments on Facebook and Instagram, it may irritate or anger you, but this isn’t cyberstalking yet. For some individuals, including semi-celebrities seeking for attention, hostile remarks are actually desired. However, once you repeatedly receive unwanted and abusive communications and feel harassed, the line has most likely been breached. Cyberstalkers may use a variety of tactics to torment their victims, including sending unpleasant contacts at regular intervals. Such messages from several accounts operated by the same person are especially frightening. It’s probably a good idea to contact both the website owners and law enforcement authorities about it.
Cyberstalking does not have to be in person, and some victims may not even be aware that they are being stalked online. Perpetrators can watch their victims via various means and exploit the data obtained for things like identity theft. The line between cyberspace and reality may become blurred in certain situations. Cyberstalkers can acquire personal data, your friends may contact you about it, and you may be harassed offline.
How can you protect yourself from all this? Although there are numerous ways and studies, it appears that this problem has yet to be resolved. Even AI is working towards preventing cyberstalking. First time hearing this? You can check the article that explains Artificial Intelligence in cybersecurity and learn more about what is cyberstalking.
Is online stalking a crime? Is there a cyberstalking law?
Cyberstalking is becoming increasingly prevalent. According to the Pew Research Center, 4 out of 10 people have been subjected to internet abuse, and 62 percent of them consider it a major problem. Cyberstalking is a felony under United States federal law. Today, stalking is frequently conducted via face-to-face and internet contact; 78% of stalkers in the United States employ various methods to harass their targets. One in four stalking victims has reported being harassed through technology (phones or computers). According to the Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center, 78 percent of stalkers in the US use multiple means to harass their victims.
The Violence Against Women Act, a United States federal legislation, has been specifically written to address cyberstalking. However, there is still a lack of federal legislation addressing stalking via electronic means, and most state laws are written. In California, the first U.S. cyberstalking legislation was passed. There have been several high-profile legal cases connected to cyberstalking since 1999.
The following is a list of other countries that have anti-cyberstalking laws in place:
- South Africa
Now, we know what is cyberstalking. So, let’s look at some of the most popular types of Cyberstalking:
To engage with potential targets, sexual predators will often utilize fake profiles or duplicate existing ones on social media.
Monitoring check-ins on social media
To correctly gauge a victim’s activity pattern, keep an eye on their social media activities.
Spying via Google Maps and Google Street View
To discover a victim’s location using Street View and public posts or photographs on social networking sites.
The ability to remotely control a computer’s web camera, often known as “hacking a webcam,” is growing in popularity. Hackers are using malware-infected files to gain entry into the victim’s PC.
Stalkerware monitors the victim’s location, provides access to the victim’s texts and browsing history, makes audio recordings, and so on without the victim’s knowledge. It is a really good example of what is cyberstalking.
Tracking location with geotags
Most digital pictures have geotagged with the time and location of the photograph, making it simpler for a stalker to find out.
How to avoid cyberstalking?
Now we know what is cyberstalking. So, how to avoid it? It’s preferable to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to cyberstalking, as with many issues in life. If you follow our easy recommendations below, you’ll be far less likely to become a victim. You may use all of the advantages of the internet while remaining completely secure if you follow these instructions.
Keep a low profile
It is the first and subjectively worst idea. Because I believe that if we were live in an ideal world, we don’t have to be hidden. However, in the real world, this tactic is working.
Keeping a low profile on the internet is difficult for some individuals, particularly those who need to utilize online platforms for self-promotion or commercial purposes. Personal information such as your address and phone number should always be avoided, and real-time information like where you are and who you’re with should be seriously considered.
Update your software
It’s unlikely that the first thing that springs to mind when you think about cyberstalking prevention is this, but it’s a good idea. When it comes to preventing data leaks, regular software upgrades are crucial. Many new versions are created to fix security flaws and help guarantee your privacy. Being aware of your surroundings while using a mobile device is crucial because it has valuable data and tracks your precise location.
Cyberstalking begins when an attacker hires someone to hack into your email or phone and use the obtained information against you, sometimes known as cyberstalking. As a result, preventing hackers from breaching your system is critical for cyberstalking prevention.
Hide your IP address
Applications and services routinely expose your IP address to the individual you’re interacting with. This may appear unimportant, yet it is directly linked to your data. Your IP address is connected to the internet bill that is delivered to your home and paid for with your credit card, for example. Cyberstalkers can utilize your IP address to identify your credit card data and physical location.
Practice good digital hygiene
It’s critical to maintain good digital hygiene to avoid being cyberstalked. This implies that you are aware of the online footprints you leave and are taking measures to safeguard your accounts and identity. Here are some things you should do regularly to protect yourself from cyberstalking.
Take advantage of security settings
Check each of your online accounts, particularly your social media accounts, to ensure you’re using the most effective privacy settings possible. You may even set limits on who can tag you or upload photos of you without your permission first.
Create generic screen names
Instead of using your real name online, consider adopting a gender-neutral screen name or nickname. As a result, you make it more difficult for others to locate you online. Also, leave the optional sections, such as your date of birth or hometown, empty.
Keep locations secure
Disabling the geolocation settings in photos is a good idea. You should also avoid posting your real-time position and instead take photographs of where you’ve been after finishing them.
Be careful with online dating sites
On internet dating sites, refrain from utilizing your complete name. Until you’ve met in person and built a level of trust, keep personal information such as your last name, address, email, and phone number to yourself.
Perform a social media audit
You should always go through your social media accounts and delete photographs or postings that reveal too much information about yourself or create an undesirable image. Keep in mind, too, that even if you’ve blocked someone on social media, they may be able to view your account by using another person’s account or creating a fake profile.
Avoid disclosing sensitive information
People provide personal information about themselves even on platforms outside of social media, which is surprising. You increase the chance of someone obtaining your personal data and making cyberstalking more accessible by completing questionnaires or applying for discounts.
How to deal with cyberstalking?
If a cyberstalker assaults you, it’s critical to respond immediately. There are a few indicators that you may be the victim of a cyberstalker:
- If you’re receiving a lot of undesirable communications from the same person on the internet,
- If you receive unsolicited messages that you didn’t request,
- If they want to cut you off from your family and friends,
- If someone is spreading rumors about you on the internet,
- If your bank or social media accounts are hacked, you are probably cyberstalked.
Pay attention to what’s going on with your account online, and pay attention if anything or someone appears unusual. It might be a cyber stalker that you’re dealing with. If you receive repeated, unwanted communications, or threats, it’s time to make a move. But, how?
Block the person
Don’t be afraid to use any legal measures at your disposal, especially those provided by the internet. If the methods are available, block anybody you want to avoid hearing from, whether they’re only irritating or not yet dangerous. You are the only one who can determine when this line has been crossed.
Alert those around you
Don’t be afraid to let others know. They will be able to assist you and review their own internet security. Inquire of your friends and relatives to exercise caution when discussing you and not engage with the stalker; they are likely to attempt to contact those close to you.
Report to the platform
If you’re being harassed or threatened on Twitter, you should immediately block the individual and submit a complaint to the platform. There are simple buttons on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and numerous other social media sites that allow users to report abuse quickly.
They may return or try to target additional individuals even if you believe the offender is gone. Even though law enforcement agencies do not always have the technical know-how to prevent cyberstalking, platform moderators generally act swiftly and remove offenders’ profiles.
Check your privacy settings
As much as possible, secure your social media account. Examine your Facebook friends and connections and other platforms to see who you may cut out in person. Make sure that only those you know have access to your profile in real life.
Keep a record of all instances of internet harassment so you can refer to them at any time. Take a screenshot or print the pages if possible. Try to retrieve the communications as well as the profile pages (including user name) on which the abuse is being delivered. Keep a log of any significant offline activities, such as showing up at your house or office. If the abuse gets worse, this will be valuable proof for the police or social media sites. It also protects you from going through all of their posts and profiles if the harasser deletes them.
Call the police
Contact the police and report the cyberstalker if you believe their behavior is unlawful or if you are afraid for your safety.
Even if you don’t have enough information or evidence to bring charges right away, filing a police report will put the offender on notice, allowing them to receive advice about what to do if they continue.
What to do if your child is experiencing cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is tough to tackle because determining who is doing the cyberstalking is frequently difficult. For instance, the individual cyberstalking your teen might be sitting next to them at school every day, or they could be in another country.
Online anonymity makes it much more difficult for officials to identify the cyberstalker. You should try to gather as much information and evidence as possible if this issue needs to be brought before the police.
Here are the steps you should take if your youngster is being cyberstalked.
- Refrain from interacting
- Notify authorities
- Get your child’s computer checked
- Change nicknames and passwords
Unfortunately, cyberstalking has become a typical hazard and an all-too-common occurrence. When we recognize this problem, we should not undervalue it and must take effective action. We have discussed what cyberstalking is, how to prevent it, how to deal with it, and more in the article.
Please share any safety measures you would want to include in the comments.