Due to the various technological advancements, the world has opened up newer avenues for people to interact and businesses to operate. This also means that there have been many new doors opened for people with dangerous agendas. Harassment has taken to a whole new level with cyberstalking, which is a rapidly escalating problem.
These days, when everything about our personal lives is put up on social media and shared freely even with strangers, cyberstalking gets very easy. Simply put, cyberstalking is the action of anonymous web users for harassing or threatening individuals online.
Cases Of Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking can happen in many ways, where the abuser can find digital information on his victim. This means that all the social networking sites you use to share your family pictures, your cat’s favorite food, the events you have attended, etc. all show your digital footprint. This basically creates a graph of your whereabouts and makes it easy to profile you as a person. For example, if you have a habit of going to the park with your kids every weekend, and you post those pictures, it will be very easy to track your routine.
Not just individuals, even groups or organizations can fall victim for cyberstalking. In the case of companies, they could face libel, defamation, and slander, or as we see in the news, powerful individuals speaking their minds can face death threats. Though in the beginning stages, this may seem very random or innocent even- like stalking your ex on social media, sometimes cyberstalking leads to more serious offenses like identity thefts or burglaries when the stalker knows you will be away from home on a vacation.
Easy-Targets Of Cyberstalking
It is common for the society to place the game on the victims, rather than dealing with the persons who commit the crime. However, many people make it convenient for cyberstalkers to find more and more information about them. Like the above example of posting your upcoming holiday details can cause a chain of events that lead to your loss.
Though there will be no one who would encourage such harmful online behaviors, there are a few who think that cyberstalking is welcome in their lives. For example, new YouTubers or Instagramers who are looking for instant fame or to achieve celebrity status might engage in verbal tiffs with those who leave negative comments on their profiles. Although such attention seekers might enjoy their newfound status as a celebrity, the fact is that there are many a trauma and psychological harm waiting to happen. Studies show that out of the 6.6 million US web users being stalked online, women and minors are the most affected by this.
Keeping Things Private
Since the cyberstalkers can be anyone in disguise, you have to ensure your own safety. Especially with your romantic life, you need to keep your private matters private. Cyberstalking is also associated with addictive behaviors, so anyone you have dated in the past or now shows such tendencies, you must be very careful. As anything might trigger them off. Online bullying and cyberstalking are similar in some aspects- both can defame you, harm or threaten you. But more often than not, bullies could be anyone, but a cyberstalker is someone you know personally or knew in the past.
Professional attackers hide behind fake personas. In the US, cyberstalking falls under harassment and is specifically addressed as the Violence Against Women Act. However, there is also no unifying law against cybercrimes across the globe. Combine this with the anonymity of the web, perpetrators are rarely caught in these acts. Fortunately, here are some ways in which you can protect yourself.
How To Protect Yourself Against Cyberstalking
Being proactive and finding ways to prevent cyberstalking from happening to you is always better than being a victim and finding ways to minimize damage.
Avoid Giving Out Too Much Information
Whether it is social media or any other site, make sure that you are not knowingly giving away your information. Many profiles are linked to real home addresses and phone numbers, or primary email. Stalkers can use this information to steal your identity and hack into your accounts or harm others in your name. It makes sense to have separate email addresses for various social media accounts, rather than using your business email for personal use. Sometimes, you may fill an online survey or any other form filling, where you are asked to provide your details. If you feel that this is suspicious, stop giving out your information and flag the site. Never give your financial details and credit card numbers.
Maintain Anonymity Where You Can
Using a VPN and hiding your real IP address not only keeps you anonymous but also secures your private data. This will also help you maintain a low profile and ensures that your activities are not known to everyone on the web. Additionally, keep Googling your name to see in which sites your information appears. Your pictures or personal information might appear on any random blog or Craigslist too, for your surprise. When you see any false or malicious information about yourself, place a request to the site administrator to take down the content.
Stay Updated And Secure Your Passwords
Cyberstalking prevention can be helped with regular software updates on your devices. You might not know this, but patch security vulnerabilities of your software may be leaking your data. Also, make sure that you use multi-step authentication for your accounts. Most people still use their birthdays or initials as their passwords, which are very easy to hack. Keep changing your passwords once in a while and never use the same password for more than one account. This is particularly important when you leave a toxic relationship. For that matter, you should even change your account security options on all your online profiles like your bank accounts.
Some Other Useful Tips
Refuse the passwords generated by any online sites, which are easy to hack through reverse algorithms. On social media sites, do not accept requests from people you don’t know. Know your rights- if someone tries to take your picture and upload it without your permission, you can stop them from doing so. Especially on online dating sites, never share your real contact info before vetting the other person.
If You Are A Victim Of Cyberstalking
If you are a victim of cyberstalking even after taking these preventive measures, report the incidents to professionals. Seek the help of law enforcement officials in nabbing the culprit and rectify the damages caused. Alternatively, a private investigator can also come in handy in these situations. If you already know who the perp is, block him and report to the platform you are using. With these safety tips, you can protect yourself from the effects of cyberstalking and even prevent it from happening.