Introduction

Whether you are an individual or own a business, being online is a need you cannot ignore. However, the online world is not all that secure. When you put your personal things out there without taking any proper precautions, you could be on the losing end. Several online crimes, specifically cyberstalking, can cause more harm than ever.

Let us understand what is cyberstalking, and how you can avoid them before you post details online. 

  1. Cyberstalking: An Introduction
  2. The Catfishing Technique
  3. Signs you are Stalked Online
  4. How to Prevent Cyberstalking?
  5. Steps to Take When CyberStalked
  6. The Legal Aspects of Cyberstalking

1. Cyberstalking: An Introduction

Cyberstalking, as the name suggests, occurs through an online medium. It is stalking that happens using email, social media or other online mediums. There is a purpose and a plan associated with the stalking, which then works for a while.

In the beginning, you don’t even realise that you are being stalked. The criminals are quite careful about it. They initiate random sweet talks that seem amusing and harmless. However, things take a swift turn with time, and you will realise that you are being stalked across different channels.

Cyberstalking happens when someone continuously barges into your online world with terrible messages. They are constantly prevalent, and you are unable to avoid them. The unpleasant messages that you are receiving may impact you and could be a form of harassment.

In cyberstalking, the individuals are not stalked offline. There is no direct communication either. However, it can be quite troublesome to the victims. It impacts their mental health and well-being in the long run. The best way to tackle this crime is by getting in touch with law enforcement, and filing a complaint against the individual.

Having said this, you need to remember that social media stalking is different from cyberstalking. In the case of regular stalking, you are watching the profiles of that person. When you say cyberstalking, you are passing negative comments and pestering them.

2. The Catfishing Technique

One of the most popular ways of cyberstalking happens to be catfishing. It is more of a pretend-play technique to grab the attention of the intended user. The catfisher would pose as someone they are not. Depending on the purpose, they may even choose someone you know to stalk you. The idea is to get to know you better. They might propose to be your friend or your lover, depending on the need. The stalker may want to bully you, cause embarrassment, or, get money from you. When you are being swayed by a catfisher, there is a whole load to lose in there. You can avoid being catfished by identifying the fake profile.

3. Signs you are Stalked Online

What are the different types of cyberstalking that you might experience? You should know these before you delve into the signs:-

  • An ex-partner or friend could be a possible stalker. They want to know what you are doing and stay updated. The chances are that this is harmless stalking. However, if it goes to the point of being obsessive, then you need to control it. The signs will tell you how to check this aspect.
  • In case your actions were misinterpreted, then you have a retaliation on the plate. This could result in stalking. Eventually, you might even get threats and other signs that suggest that the person is stalking you online.
  • A troll is someone who comments on all your posts and even threatens you with dire circumstances. They cannot tolerate your perspectives, and as a result, offer negative comments. However, the question remains whether it is harmless or harmful.

These are just a few cyberstalking examples. However, there are certain aspects that no one has ventured into.

Let’s look at the signs that suggest you need to take immediate action against the stalker.

  • The concerned person is continually looking at your profile. You will notice that they are regularly commenting on your photos or whatever you are sharing.
  • There is a certain level of desperation in their messages. They seem to want an answer. They are unable to digest the fact that you are ignoring them.
  • They go to the extent of reaching out to your family and getting messages across to you through them.
  • They keep checking your pages every other minute. They know what you are up to, where you are and what you are doing at the moment. The stalker has gone from being online and has entered your real world. It is scary and could be dangerous as well.
  • There is a good chance that they would hack all your personal and banking accounts. It could also be stalking that was done with the intention of catfishing.

Some laws can help you fight cyberstalking. Cyber laws dictate how a cybercriminal should be treated. However, before we discuss the laws and how to use them in detail, let’s check out what you should do to prevent cyberstalking. Taking these steps can help you stay protected from the stalkers.

4. How to Prevent Cyberstalking?

  1. Avoid Sharing Personal Information

You are probably using online platforms to promote yourself or the brand you have created. It is possible that in the flow of promotions, you are also revealing your whereabouts. While there is no scope to reduce the number of posts, you can always avoid revealing personal information. Don’t share your location, your phone number or even your address on these platforms. You are directing the stalkers to move from online to offline when you share such private details. It becomes easier for the catfishers to trap you when they have these details readily available.

Avoid using your real name on social media platforms specifically, the forums and messaging dashboards. If you’re using media for work, then you cannot avoid it on the major platforms. When you are on a dating site, maintain a low profile. It will help you avoid chatting with the wrong people.

  1. Keep Your Software Updated

One of the most commonly made mistakes is to avoid updating the software. When the software is not up-to-date, you may not have received the patches and security upgrades. As a result, the information stored on the software can get leaked, and reach the potential stalkers. It is also possible that the software releases your location details, as it has not been upgraded to the new security feature. To avoid this, you should always look out for updates.

  1. Adopt Digital Hygiene

This will help you ensure stable mental health, and avoid looking at the negative comments. Start with identifying who can see your profile, and who cannot. You should also update the privacy settings as the app gets updated to use the new features. You should essentially specify who can message you as well when you are on digital hygiene.

Apart from this, you should also frequently delete the negative comments on your feed. Keep your feeds clean. These negative comments can affect you, which need to be avoided. It can also lead to more comments.

  1. No Sensitive Information

You may tend to reveal information such as passwords using the messengers on these platforms. Try avoiding this as much as possible. Apart from this, you should avoid sharing your contact details with people offline as well. For instance, avoid filling the coupons given outside malls with the correct information. You never know who will get access to this information. Unless you are sure about the company and its marketers, do not reveal any information.

  1. Mask IP Address

It is a good idea to avoid sharing your IP address while you are accessing social media platforms. You can mask the IP address using Virtual Private Network (VPN). It helps prevent people from accessing your location while you stay safe online.

You can also use tools and browsers that help prevent location sharing.

The tools help you know if a profile is inappropriate. You can opt to stop receiving messages from this profile, as a result. The browser also raises red flags when the person is a bot or someone to be worried about.

We have seen how you can avoid cyberstalking. However, what will you do when someone is stalking you online? Take these steps immediately when you notice that you are being stalked.

5. Steps to Take When CyberStalked

#1 Block the Profile

Do you feel that a person is bothering you a lot with their messages? The cyber law, as well as the web services, grant you the option to block anyone. You will stop receiving messages from that person. As your first step in the battle against cyberstalking, block the person, and stop getting their messages. This will ensure mental peace.

#2 Report the Profile

Every social media platform allows you to report a profile. Flag them as inappropriate. If there is any other way of reporting, then you should use it as well. However, this may not be the end of stalking. Sometimes, the stalker returns despite being reported, using a different identity. 

It will take some time before you know that it is the same person. The platform moderators are usually quick to work on this aspect and will delete their profiles.

#3 File a Complaint

Once you have taken the first two steps, you should file a complaint with the police. If you feel that the stalker has the potential of causing harm, then you should report to the police immediately. You may not have a lot of information about the stalker. However, when the complaint is filed, you will get advice on dealing with the situation better. Even with fewer details present about the stalker, you might be able to stop the stalking completely.

Anti-stalking laws have been formed as cyberstalking punishment. However, not all countries across the world have taken up these laws. In certain states across the U.S., you will notice that they have made cyberstalking punishable. The offender will be sent to jail for five years and will have to bear a fine. There have been cases that state how the states have handled such situations. However, there is no specific law for cyberstalking. It has been combined with other laws. Currently, the countries are working on specific laws to deal with the situation. These include harassment and threats that they receive online.

Conclusion

While you can take the legal route to handle cyberstalking, you should ideally try to minimize the situation. Minimize the information available against you online. The lesser people know about you, the better it is for you. If possible, delete a few photos and videos before you go public with your privacy settings. Avoid using your real name and other credentials. Try avoiding people who have red flags all over their profile.

The best part for the users is that the law enforcement and the social media channels are on your side. As a result, it is easier to battle online stalking.

So, have you made up your mind to make a career in Cyber Security? Visit our Master Certificate in Cyber Security (Red Team) for further help. It is the first program in offensive technologies in India and allows learners to practice in a real-time simulated ecosystem, that will give you an edge in this competitive world.

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