Various advancements in technologies that help us to communicate better have opened up a lot of opportunities for people from all over the world.
Now, it is easier than ever for people to interact and do business with each other without having to leave their comfort place.
But these news avenues have also opened up for people who do not have the best interest of other people.
We are talking about hackers.
These are people who are a danger not only to the core infrastructure of the internet but also to the people using the internet.
Most of the times, they have negative agendas against other online consumers.
The fact that more and more people now have access to the internet means that a good number of bad people also have gotten access to the internet.
That is just one of the reasons why online harassment has increased exponentially in the last couple of years or so.
We are talking about a whole new (and improved) level of online harassment and cyberstalking.
The fact that the internet has also become cheap means cyberstalking continues to be a rapidly escalating online issue.
Of course, good people haven’t exactly helped themselves either.
We live in an age where everything has to be made public in order to make a name for oneself.
If it is true that more people have access to the internet than ever then it is also true that more and more people are putting everything they know about themselves and others around them on the internet.
Social media platforms have become the directory of people on the internet.
People share content on these platforms and that too for free.
Sometimes people do not even care if some stranger is looking at their personal photos.
This is just one reason why, without any effort from hackers, things like cyberstalking has become so easy.
But what is cyberstalking?
How does it work?
You do not need to search too much before you understand cyberstalking.
The only thing you need to know here is that cyberstalking happens when supposedly anonymous online users take action in order to threaten or harass other individuals they may or may not know online.
Examples of cyberstalking
There are lots of ways someone can engage in cyberstalking.
In other words, there isn’t a specific behavior that the community has defined as cyberstalking.
It can take many shapes and forms.
Generally speaking though, the online anonymous abuser makes efforts to find as much private and personal information on the potential victim as is possible.
This means that if you have used various social networking platforms in order to share your stuff such as,
- Family pictures
- Different events that you have managed to attend
- The favorite food of your cat
then you can get in some big trouble.
There is nothing stopping a cyber stalker from finding all the information through your digital footprint.
When a cyberstalker is able to find such information, he/she then basically tries to create a comprehensive graph of the victim’s whereabouts.
Once a cyberstalker does that, he/she has a lot easier time in profiling the victim as a real person.
If that did not make much sense then just bear with us for a couple of seconds as we try to explain stuff.
To take an example, suppose that you are a person that the cyberstalker wants to stalk.
Now, if you haven’t taken proper measures and have formed a habit of visiting the local park either alone or with your kids each weekend to take photos of yourself and your family/friends in order to post them to a social media platform, then you have done half the job of the cyberstalker.
Whoever the cyberstalker is, he/she will have an easy time tracking you and your online activities.
The worst about cyberstalking is that now cyberstalkers and other cybercriminals aren’t only targeting individuals.
They are also victimizing organizations and/or groups.
This is how far cyberstalking has become from its earlier days where it was just about some jealous friend trying to irritate his/her friend online.
Now, when it comes to cyberstalkers targeting companies, they could (and probably should as we have seen so far) face slander, defamation, and libel.
The things we are talking about here make it to the news every now and then so you must have come across some during your online travels.
Individuals with power and influence who like to speak their minds online or offline have to face a barrage of death threats and other forms of harassment.
Now, in the early stages of cyberstalking, you may not even notice that someone is trying to cyberstalk you.
You may think that you got hate probably from a random person.
You may also think that the message you have received is an innocent one and that the guy/gal at the other end of the message is probably messing with you.
Sometimes, people who are in a relationship in one form or another (friends/family/spouse) face cyberstalking which is pretty harmless in the end.
A friend could just want to know where is high-school classmate has ended up or who he/she has married (not that it is any of the first friend’s business).
But at other times, cyberstalking becomes a lot more serious.
Such as when a cyberstalker engages in identity thefts or real-life burglaries.
This usually happens when the cyberstalker actually knows that the potential victim would be away from home, probably, for work or for vacation.
Cyberstalking: Who are the most vulnerable people?
Our research shows that it is very common for people in society to lay the blame on the victim.
Such people do not like to deal with the cyberstalker who actually committed the crime.
And while it is true that victims, in hindsight, could have done a lot better in terms of what they put out there on the internet, it is not the right approach.
The right approach is for victims as well as law enforcement agencies to perform their duties as they are supposed to.
In this guide, we will not talk about what law enforcement agencies are supposed to do.
We will only talk about what you can do in order to stay safe from cyberstalking.
The first thing that any online consumer can do is to not make it extremely easy for cyberstalkers to stalk them.
More specifically, stop sharing so much stuff on the internet even if they are sharing it with their friends or family.
As mentioned before in our example, if you post something on the internet about you going on a holiday pretty soon then that can cause a simple chain of events to happen which may or may not lead to a big loss on your part.
Now, there is no doubt about the fact that cyberstalking is bad.
No sane person would ever wish that someone would become a victim of cyberstalking.
But some have also said that cyberstalking has helped them get off the internet.
Some even think that cyberstalking is actually welcomed in their online lives.
Let’s take an example again.
Let’s say you are a new Instagrammer or YouTuber who is looking for instant money and/or fame.
Well, if you want to achieve your dreamed celebrity status then you will have to engage in various verbal tiffs with people who may leave negative comments on your profile.
This is not the best way to build up your social credit but it is certainly one way.
With that said, you should also understand that you may come across as an attention seeker to many people.
And you may not care.
You may actually enjoy your newfound online status as a digital personality.
But the fact is that enduring online abuse may cause psychological and trauma which may harm your health to the degree that you may never recover without help.
Recent studies have shown that there are about 6.6 million online users in the US who have become victims of online cyberstalking.
And the majority of these folks are minors and women.
So keep that in mind as you try to take measures against cyberstalking and all the bad that it can do to a person’s life and state of mind.
Try to keep things more private
Remember that a cyberstalker doesn’t have to be a stranger.
It could be someone you know.
In other words, anyone can be a cyberstalker in the online world.
So there is no way for you to stay safe apart from taking measures on your own.
This is especially true for information that you consider as personal.
Private matters care called private matters for a reason.
They are private.
Do not make the mistake of making them public on any social media platform.
Some researchers have associated cyberstalking as an addiction.
People with this addiction just cannot help themselves.
So if anyone you know in your real life who has sown such tendencies is someone that you need to exercise care against.
Moreover, people with an addiction such as cyberstalking have many triggers.
Anything and everything can set off that addiction.
Also, take note that cyberstalking is pretty much like online bullying.
These are similar in the sense that both involve a person getting defamed.
Cyberstalkers either want to threaten you or harm you.
However, in the majority of the cases, you will find that a person involved in bullying or cyberstalking can be anyone.
Some have found that most cyberstalkers are people that you somehow know if your personal life or either knew at some point in your past.
But as with everything else, cyberstalking has also evolved.
Now, people can hire professional attackers.
These professional attackers have the skills to create fake personas.
Now, in the United States of America, cyberstalking actually falls under the harassment law.
More specifically, it is comprehensively addressed in the United States Violence Against Women Act.
On the other hand, if we are talking about other countries around the globe as well then there is no single unifying law which works against cybercrimes.
If you combine that fact with the quality of anonymity which the web provides to anyone and everyone with a laptop and an internet connection, you will realize that it is really hard for law enforcement agencies to catch the cyberstalker in the act.
The only fortunate thing about the whole situation is that there are a lot of things that you can right now in order to keep yourself and your loved ones away from cyberstalking.
Tips on how to protect oneself against problems such as cyberstalking
All of our tips boil down to the person being proactive.
That means you have to work hard to find ways in which you can prevent cyberstalking ever happening to you rather than trying to minimize the damage once it has happened to you.
It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to cyberstalking.
Once you become a victim of cyberstalking, there is not a lot that you can do to reverse the damage.
So be prepared and always make arrangements to minimize any potential damage.
Stop putting your information on the internet
This is a bit of a no-brainer really.
It doesn’t matter if you are on a social media website or another service.
You should always make sure that you never knowingly give some or any of your personal information away.
The majority of the profiles that people make have links to real phone numbers and home addresses.
Sometimes even the primary email address is real.
Cyberstalkers love such profiles as they can just copy/paste the information in order to steal either your identity or hack into your bank accounts.
If they can’t do that, rest assured that they will figure out another way of hurting you real bad.
So, it really makes a lot of sense that you have different email addresses for your different social media profiles.
Do not use your business email address in your personal profile.
There are also times when you get yourself in trouble by filling an online form or survey without knowing that you should not fill them with your real information.
If you get this feeling that something you are doing is suspicious then it probably is.
Do not provide any site that you do not trust your information.
Moreover, you should flag such sites as well.
It goes without saying that you should never, under any circumstances, submit your credit card numbers and/or financial details online.
Maintain as much anonymity as you can
You can always sign up for a VPN service if you want more protection and want to hide your original IP address.
This not only means you stay anonymous but it also means more security for your online activities and privacy for your data.
A good VPN service will allow you to maintain a pretty low profile on the internet.
More specifically, that means a VPN will ensure that all of your online activities remain hidden from everyone else on the internet.
In addition to that, you should make it a habit of Googling your first and last name in order to see what’s going on.
Check which website is showing what information on you.
Also keep an eye on any pictures that a website might have on you or any kind of personal information that you may not want others to see.
You never know which random blog has your information for the whole world to see.
Check sites like Craigslist as well.
Whether you find something or not is not something we would like to comment on.
But we will say that you will be surprised to see the results.
Okay, so what do you do when you see a site spreading malicious or false information regarding your personal life or yourself generally?
Well, the first thing you should do is to contact the administrator of the website and request the person to take that content down as soon as possible.
Update your passwords and keep them secure
This is also very important.
If you want to prevent cyberstalking then you can help your cause a great deal if you just make sure that all of your software applications are updated properly and on all of your devices.
Some of our readers may not think it is important but it is.
Different updates and patches almost always fix security vulnerabilities which exist in your software or device.
Such vulnerabilities could leak your data so do not take this tip lightly.
Moreover, you should also ensure that you have set up a multi-step authentication process for all of your important accounts.
The majority of the people make this mistake of using their birthdays as their passwords.
Do not do that.
If you make use of your initials as your password then stop doing that as well.
Such passwords are fairly easy for hackers to crack.
You don’t want that.
What you should do instead is to make a habit of changing your passwords from time to time.
Moreover, give up the habit of using the exact same password for a multiple number of profiles or accounts on the internet.
Why is that important?
Well, it is not important for all people.
But it is important for people who have gotten out of a toxic relationship.
Apart from that, you should also change the security options that your account offers from time to time.
Do this for all of your profiles online.
And that includes the profile that you have made with your bank.
More tips on how to stay safe from cyberstalking
Another tip that we would like to add here is this:
Stop accepting the generated passwords by different websites.
These are not safe and can be easily hacked by cybercriminals.
Modern cybercriminals have a variety of techniques that they like to use to know people’s passwords.
And the number one method for doing that is via reverse algorithms.
You do not need to go into the details of that.
Just stop accepting the password that online sites give you.
Use your own.
Or use a good password manager if you do not have the time or energy.
Moreover, when it comes to different social media websites, never accept friend requests from users who you have never met or do not know.
You need to learn more about your rights.
So if you are walking down the street and someone makes an attempt to take your photo, do not just allow them to do that because they may upload your picture without your consent.
You also have the option of stopping them from doing so if you so choose.
This holds especially true for sites that are categorized as online dating.
If you have not vetted the person on the other side, do not share your real and current contact information.
What to do if you have become a victim?
There are lots of things you can do.
If you have taken preventative measures that we have mentioned above then you should be safe.
However, if you have become a victim then simply contact professionals who deal with such matters.
Report your case to law enforcement officials.
Seek their help.
If you have a case, they will actually help you nab the culprit.
They may even get you compensation for your damage.
Apart from that, you can also hire a private investigator.
They do come in handy in such situations.
Now, there is always a chance that you already know who the perpetrator of the crime is.
In that case, just block the person.
Then report the person to the administrators of the site that you have signed up to.