Social media has penetrated our lives to an extent when there is only a blurry line left between socializing and over-sharing. These platforms, including professional websites like LinkedIn and dating forums like Tinder have become the biggest sources of cyberstalking. Read this article about cyberstalking and discover ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones against cyberstalking.
What is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is a growing cybercrime whereby an attacker or criminal uses computing devices and online platforms to verbal or graphically harass an individual. Cyberstalking behavior can be a result of hatred, personal or professional jealousy, inferiority complex, psychological disorders or it may be the first step towards a bigger cybercrime. The results of cyberstalking depend wholly on the intention of the stalker: some may choose to only bother or torture the victim while others may tend to demand ransom or cause other physical or financial damage.
Identify Cyberstalking Behavior
Cyberstalking behavior that starts from social media often consists of a few likes and comments, but it can soon transform into a nightmare when the cyberstalker starts following the victim on all other online platforms including email and LinkedIn. Some people warn an account holder if they feel annoying behaviour, others choose to stay silent, and many other individuals fail to identify they are being cyberstalked.
Cyberstalkers commonly spam their victim’s email inbox with malicious links, offensive content, react and pass lewd comments on photographs and videos, track a victim based on their social check-ins. They often use catfish accounts: fake social media profiles that are created by copying other users’ information.
Tips for Preventing and Controlling Cyberstalking
1. Study your local cyberbullying and cyberstalking laws.
Most nations have only created and implemented strict anti-harassment laws. In such nations, all laws that apply to physical and emotional torture, assault and harassment apply to cyberstalking and cyberbullying as well. Welfare states and some first world countries have added separate cyberstalking clauses in their existing laws only. Check the government website that publishes legislative content or talk to your closest lawyer to learn the rights of a cyberstalking victim.
2. Educate your kids and other family members about social media hygiene
Cyberstalking is not only a crime, but a legit parenting issue as well. Create awareness and discuss cyberstalking behaviors and related laws with your kids and students (if you are in an influential position).
- Talk to them about cyberstalking, cyberbullying, dangers of using free Wi-Fi services, online hazards and problems associated with scammy websites that display sensitive adult content.
- Teach them not to open emails from unknown senders.
- Discuss how cyberattackers can use their data. They can sell the data on the dark web or blackmail kids to follow their abusive instructions.
- Forbid them to participate or engage with posts that aim to bully or insult an individual or group from a diverse geographic or ethnic background.
Educating them is the only way to protect them since modern kids also want privacy and keeping a close eye on their social media accounts can only affect your relationship with your kid.
3. Limit what you share on social media
Cyber stalkers are not only criminals who want to cause financial damage. It could be your ex-fiance, husband, boss, colleague or unfortunately, a stepfather. So stay vigilant and alert and share limited information on social media. Limit past posts on Facebook. Also, teach your kids to not share photographs, work or school addresses on social media for serious cyber stalkers can often approach young victims in person. Once they get to know a victim’s actual location, they may start harassing them or threaten to kidnap them.
4. Review account settings
All social media accounts let you control access to information. You can set custom privacy settings and review which apps can access your Facebook profile and data. Check your friends and followers list and report, block any profile that you feel is fake.
5. Secure online traffic with an encryption tool
Cybersecurity gurus suggest all adult internet users buy VPN and secure online traffic they exchange on the internet. This prevents internet service providers, intruders, and bounty hunters from monitoring you and poking you online. With this tool, you will pass all of your internet activities from a secure tunnel. If you already have a VPN service, configure its credentials on your Wi-Fi router to prevent data leaks. Using a VPN significantly decreases the chances of man-in-the-middle attacks and session hijacking.
6. Practice strong password management
Some cyberstalkers seem to be following you everywhere, but they do so for copying the digital patterns of your online behavior. One weak password and your overall internet experience will transform into a nightmare. A hacker can plant spyware and get access to all sensitive accounts including your digital payment gateways. Therefore, we suggest all users follow strict password etiquette: create unique, complex passwords preferably with a password manager and enable 2 Factor Authentication, preferably biometric verification on all social media and banking accounts.
7. Collect Evidence and Speak up
If you believe you are being cyberstalked, take screenshots and save copies of harassing emails. Warn the stalker politely first and if the behavior continues, talk to your social circle about it and consult a lawyer.
8. Avoid connecting to open Wi-Fi networks
Right after you’ve been cyberstalked, do not use public Wi-Fi services. These are weak networks and can be penetrated by anyone. Unless you do not buy VPN and activate it in the background, avoid accessing the internet via open platforms no matter how strong the connectivity is.
9. Ensure internet safety for your kids and younger siblings
Practicing internet safety proves to be beneficial and helps prevent issues like cyberstalking and cyberbullying. Therefore, teach internet usage rules to your kids, but lead them by example. Follow those rules yourself so that it’s easier for your kids too. Teach them not to disclose sensitive information like home address, family’s financial details or phone numbers even if some online entity forces them to do so. While they may not remember to activate a VPN and antivirus program, do so for them or remind them so that they learn to take these tools seriously.
10. Use Parental Controls
If your kids are underage (13 years or less), they should not be allowed to use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. If they are still doing so, you are also participating in active policy violation. If your kids are older than 13, but younger than 16, they still need parental guidance. Practice parental controls whenever needed. When you buy VPN, configure the credentials on your Wi-Fi router to protect all devices. Allow your kids screen time for entertainment but ensure they use Kids profile as on Netflix and Youtube. Forbid them to download or install third party game or streaming apps without your notice.
Being vocal about cyberstalking is the first step towards prevention and control of more serious cybercrimes. Know your rights and always carry the right tools to protect yourself and your family from cybercrimes including cyberstalking. Also, train your kids to identify cyberstalking behavior and teach them to always keep their VPNs, antivirus programs and biometric verification apps active when they torrent, stream, play games or simply browse the websites.