Cyber stalking is a nasty, destructive activity that can have seriously damaging consequences. In short, its harassment carried out over the internet and the motives may be to control or intimidate the victim or to gather information for use in other crimes, like identity theft or real-world stalking.
Unfortunately our online world lends itself to creating easy targets. Many people think nothing of publicly posting personal information, sharing their feelings and desires, publishing family photos and more, for the world to see, all of which is fuel for cyber stalkers.
- Cyberstalking can take many different forms, but in the broadest sense, it is stalking or harassment that takes place via online channels such as social media, forums or email. It is typically planned and sustained over a period of time.
- Cases of cyberstalking can often begin as seemingly harmless interactions. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, a few strange or perhaps unpleasant messages may even amuse you. However, if messages become systematic, it becomes irritating and even frightening.
Receiving intrusive messages, or even being monitored, by an unknown person or even a casual acquaintance is cyberstalking if it persists. It can have many motives including revenge, anger and control.
Many cyberstalking cases involve someone attempting to get the attention of a former or would-be partner. While some people may see this behaviour as acceptable, if the communication is unwanted and crosses the line from friendly ‘chatter’ to unwanted messages it can be considered harassment.
What are the signs of cyberstalking?
There are several acts that fall under the umbrella of cyber stalking. These include:
Protecting against cyber stalkers
Keep a low profile
- Blitzing a target with a barrage of unwanted messages
- Sending messages anonymously which are designed to upset the victim
- Excessive commenting on a target’s social media posts
- Sending threatening and unsolicited explicit emails, messages or texts
- Anonymously creating negative impressions of victims via social media posts
- Impersonating the victim on social media
- Hacking or hijacking devices and online accounts
Avoid posting personal details such as your address and phone number and think carefully about revealing real-time information such as where you are and who you’re with. Use a nickname on Instagram or Twitter and other similar platforms. Be wary about who you accept connection requests and messages from. If it’s not a friend, relative or colleague, do some checks before moving forward.
Update your software
Regular software updates are crucial when it comes to preventing information leaks. Many updates are developed to patch security vulnerabilities and help ensure your information remains safe. They are especially important for mobile devices which contain valuable data and track your exact location. There are numerous cases in which cyberstalking begins when an attacker pays someone to hack your email or phone and uses the gathered information against you. A such, protecting yourself from hackers is key to cyberstalking prevention.
Hide your IP address
Many applications and services reveal your IP address to the person with whom you’re communicating. This may seem unimportant, but this information is directly related to your personal data. Cyberstalkers can begin with your IP address and use it to find out all sorts of personal information about you.
To mask your IP address you can use a good Virtual Private Network
(VPN). This hides your real IP address and replaces it with an IP address from a location of your choice, so you could even appear to be in a different country. It also encrypts all of your internet traffic, keeping it safe from the prying eyes of hackers.
Maintaining good digital hygiene helps protect you from cyber harassment, cyberbullying and cyberstalking. Adjusting privacy settings is one of the first steps you can take to “clean up” your accounts. Most social media platforms and some other types of online accounts will let you adjust who can see your profile and contact you. It’s also a good idea to keep things like your timelines, feeds and message threads free from negative comments.
Avoid disclosing sensitive information
By filling out questionnaires or submitting applications for coupons, you are increasing the likelihood of someone getting their hand on your personal data and possibly making cyberstalking more accessible.