With everything in the world leaning towards the internet and universal connectivity, talking about stalking shouldn’t only bring up images of shady figures peering around corners stalking their victims. Today, all stalkers need is a PC, and they can do more damage than ever.
The Low Down on Cyber-Stalking
You may have heard of the term, but what is cyber-stalking? It’s is a form of cyber-crime that occurs online when criminals use technology to threaten or harass an individual or a business. The attacker can blackmail victims by getting access to their online banking accounts, instant messages, emails, social media accounts, chats, and more.
It is like old-fashioned stalking just in the cyber-world. The difference between trolling and cyber-stalking is that the former comprises a group or a person harassing someone online, but with a bit of humor involved, while the latter has malicious intent.
- It isn’t surprising that more women than men fall victim to cyber-stalking. According to a 2013 research report by WHOA (Working to Halt Online Abuse), the ratio is 60 percent women vs. 40 percent men. Most reported cases were in the US.
- In 2015, almost 6 million cases (1 in 10 adults) of cyber-crime and online fraud were committed in the UK.
- Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are latent hunting grounds for cyber-stalkers. Children are vulnerable because 39 percent of them do not enable their privacy settings on social media. More troubling is that 95 percent of teenagers say that, like others, they have ignored bullying they’d seen on social media instead of reporting it. Furthermore, 25 percent of teenagers on social media stated that online incidents have ended up in face-to-face conflict.
- Phishing is a cyber-crime method frequently used by criminals to dupe users of an online account by posturing as a valid entity. According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 30 percent of phishing emails are opened, and 12 percent of victims click on the infecting attachments or links
. Today, it 20 times more likely that you’ll be robbed while at your PC by a criminal located abroad than being mugged in the street.
Methods of Harassment
There are several methods used for cyber-stalking:
- Posting real of fake sexual pictures of the target or their loved ones.
- Placing a GPS device on a victim’s car to track their every move.
- Sending threatening emails to the victim or their family and friends.
- Uploading private information like name, phone number, social security number, or address on the net.
- Hacking and saving texts, social media posts, and emails to use them to blackmail or harass the victim.
- Hacking into the victim’s social media account to post abusive comments and material.
- Circulating fake or personal information to disrepute a victim at their place of work.
- Using a victim’s email or social media account to contact and stalk others.
- Creating fake blogs, social media profiles, and malicious websites about the victim.
You’ve heard stories, maybe read articles on cyber-crime, but usually, when you realize you’re a target, it’s too late. Luckily, there are ways to protect yourself:
- Use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your private information and keep you anonymous online.
- Install first-rate antivirus software on all your devices (PC, laptops, etc.).
- Be cautious of what you upload on social media. Avoid giving out too much personal information that would make it easy for a cyber-stalkers to attack.
- Don’t receive or send personal messages or emails if you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi as they are infamously unsafe. With modern day tech, anybody could be spying on your internet traffic.
- Always use multi-factor authentication and unique, strong passwords to thwart easy access to your information.
- Never upload photos on social media that show your location or places where you often spend time. This information can be used against you by cyber-stalkers.
- A major online threat remains phishing emails. Avoid them at all costs.
- Make sure you’ve carefully reviewed the privacy settings on all your social media accounts to guarantee that your information stays protected.
In the world we live in, educating children as well as adults about cyber-stalking and its far-reaching consequences, is imperative. Remain vigilant to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming targets.