What is Cyber-Stalking?
While most of us are aware of what stalking is, not many users know what cyber-stalking is! Cyber-stalking is a form of cyber-crime that takes place online when a criminal uses technology to harass or threaten a person or an organization. The assailant can blackmail the victims by gaining access to their emails, instant messages, chats, social media accounts, online-banking accounts and more. In simple words, it’s just like traditional stalking but in the cyber-world.
However, cyber-stalking shouldn’t be confused with trolling. Even though trolling consists of a group or a single person involved in online harassment, it usually involves an element of humor – while cyber-stalking comes with a malicious intent. Let’s take a look at the different methods employed by cyber-stalkers to harass their victims and how cyber-stalkers can be stopped.
Examples of Cyber-Stalking
- Making and posting fake or real sexual images of the victim or their loved ones.
- Tracking their victims’ every movement by placing a GPS device on their car.
- Threatening the victim or their friends and family via emails.
- Uploading personal information such as name, address, social security number or phone number on the Internet.
- Hacking and saving emails, text messages and social media posts and using them to harass or blackmail a victim.
- Hacking into the victim’s social media account to post offensive material and comments.
- Releasing personal or fake information to discredit a victim at his/her office.
- Using the victim’s social media account or email to stalk and contact others.
- Creating malicious websites, fake social media profiles and blogs about a victim.
- Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram are potential hunting grounds for cyber-stalkers. Victims usually pick up or run into an offender at such platforms. This could be because 39% of children fail to enable their privacy settings on social media. However, 95% of teens that witnessed bullying on social media report that others, like them, have ignored the behavior. Moreover, 25% of teens on social media reported that online incidents have resulted in face-to-face confrontation. So, one must be careful about what they post and who they interact with on social media sites.
- It’s not surprising to know that women are more often victims of cyber-stalking compared to men. According to the research report by WHOA (short for Working to Halt Online Abuse) in 2013, the ratio stood at 60% women to 40% men. In 2013, most reported victims of cyber-stalking lived in California and most cases were reported in the US.
- You are now 20 times more likely to be robbed while at your computer by a criminal based overseas than held up in the street, new figures have revealed.
- In 2015, the rapid increase in online fraud and cyber-crime in the UK saw almost 6 million offences committed, which means that one in ten adults fell victim to cyber-crime.
- Phishing is a well known cyber-crime technique often used by criminals to defraud an online account user by posing as a legitimate entity. According to the Verizon DBIR, 30% of phishing emails are opened and 12% of those targeted click on the infecting links or attachments.
In the virtual world, cyber-stalkers and predators are lurking at every corner. Others may never know when they're being targeted until it’s too late. As listed above, there are several ways a cyber-criminal can target you. However, luckily for us, there are many ways to protect ourselves from this menace. Here are some simple ways to protect yourself online:
- Don’t send or receive private emails or messages when connected to a public Wi-Fi as they are notoriously unsafe. With today's technology, there’s always a chance that someone could be snooping on your internet traffic.
- Use a VPN because it helps to protect your personal information and keeps you anonymous online. Not sure where to get started with VPNs? Here’s a list of my top 10 VPNs for security and privacy.
- Install a top-notch antivirus software on your computer and laptops and other devices.
- Be careful of what you upload on social media. Don’t provide too much personal information that would make it easier for a cyber-stalker to do his thing.
- Use strong, unique passwords and multi-factor authentication for thwarting easy access to your personal information.
- Don’t upload photos on social media that show your location or places where you often hang out because it can be used against you by a cyber-stalker.
- Phishing emails are still a major threat online, so it’s extremely important that you avoid them. Use these tips to spot phishing emails and stay clear of them.
- Review privacy settings on all your social media accounts as carefully as possible to ensure your information remains protected.
In this day and age, it’s imperative to educate our kids and even adults about cyber-stalking and its far-reaching consequences. Raising awareness and implementing the strategies suggested above can go a long way in protecting yourself and your loved ones from these types of threats.
About The Author
Anas Baig is a Cybersecurity Journalist by profession with a profound interest in online privacy, security and IoT. Follow him on Twitter @anasbaigdm, or email him directly by clicking here.