Introduction

Cyberstalking refers to using the internet or electronic media for harassing or stalking an individual, organization, or group.

It includes false accusations, defamation, slander, and libel.

Cyberstalking often goes along with real-time or offline stalking. A stalker may be an online stranger or someone who the target is aware of.

Cyberstalking is a form of cyberbullying. Both the terms are used interchangeably but the terms have different meanings. 

Cyberbullying is an act of harming or harassing using information technology in a conscious manner. It includes threatening or intimidating messages, insulting remarks, spreading rumors about the person on various social media platforms, posting embarrassing pictures and videos to hurt the person. 

Cyberstalking on the other hand is a criminal offence in which the attacker harasses the victim using mobile phones, messages posted on a website, or discussion group for the reason of anger, revenge, or control.

  1. Who is behind cyberstalking?
  2. Legal aspects of cyberstalking
  3. How to avoid being cyberstalked?
  4. What to do if you are being cyberstalked?

1. Who is behind cyberstalking?

Cyberstalkers often work under the assumption that they are anonymous. They often are.  It is up to oneself how he/she can protect themselves from this form of harassment.

It is crucial to take the appropriate action at the right time if you find that you are being stalked online.   

It is a surprising fact that most cyberstalking victims are women. Men constitute 20%-40% of the victims.

There are various psychological reasons behind cyberstalking. Some of them are hatred, revenge, envy, psychiatric dysfunction, internet addiction, rage, etc. 

In India, be it physical stalking or electronic stalking via phone calls, emails, messages, etc. amount to the criminal offense.

A report given by Hindustan Times says that one who monitors the usage of the internet by a person or use of any other form of electronic communication which results in fear of violence or impedes the mental peace of the target is said to have commenced the offense of stalking.

The majority of the victims of cyberstalking are women and the majority of the stalkers are men. Some women choose to ignore the stalkers instead of approaching the police for help. They are intimidated by the thought of approaching the police or feel that the police will not help them.

Women who are being stalked can file their complaints to the National Commission for Women and the Commission will take up the matter to the police. A woman in any part of India can file a complaint with the National Commission for Women.

Cyberstalking cases are dealt in India by the following Acts:

  1. Information Technology Act, 2000;
  2. Indian Penal Code, 1860.
  • Section 67 of Information Technology Act, 2000

As per the abovementioned section, if someone tries to publish obscene material about the victim on social media platforms in order to bully the victim, he

shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years along with a fine up to Rs. 5Lakhs in case of first-time offenders.

In case of subsequent conviction, the term of imprisonment may extend to 5 years along with a fine up to 10Lakhs.

  • Section 67A of Information Technology Act, 2000

If someone attempts to publish any sexually explicit material in electronic form, he shall be guilty and shall be punished with 

imprisonment for a term that may extend to 5 years along with a fine up to Rs. 10 Lakhs in case of first-time offenders.

In case of subsequent conviction, the term of imprisonment may extend to 7 years along with a fine up to 10 Lakhs.

  • Section 67B of Information Technology Act, 2000

If someone publishes material in which children are engaged in sexual activities to terrorize the children (under 18 years of age), such person shall be guilty and shall be punished with 

imprisonment for a term that may extend to 5 years along with a fine up to Rs. 10 Lakhs in case of first-time offenders.

In case of subsequent conviction, the term of imprisonment may extend to 7 years along with a fine up to 10 Lakhs.

  • Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 503 deals with criminal intimidation as threats made to any person with an injury to their reputation, either in order to cause harm or to make her change her course of action regarding anything she would otherwise do/not do. Punishment involves imprisonment which may extend to 2 years and/or fine.

  • Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Any person who utters derogatory words in order to insult the modesty of a woman shall be punished with an imprisonment of 1 year and/or fine.

  • Section 507 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

This section punishes criminal intimidation by anonymous communication with imprisonment for a term that may extend up to 2 years.

3. How to avoid being cyberstalked?

Some of the below-mentioned tips can be followed to avoid cyberstalking:

  1. Only visit safe sites that adopt and follow an anti-harassment policy.
  2. Do not disclose personal information about yourself to strangers in the digital space.
  3. Keep your screen name neutral. Avoid using your real name or nickname.
  4. Be careful about your passwords. Stalkers have numerous techniques to hack the passwords of the victim’s account. Unique and strong passwords, secret questions which are hard to answer highly are recommended.
  5. It is also recommended to keep changing all your passwords on yearly basis.
  6. Always log out of your computer programs when you step away from the computer. The use of a screensaver with a password is a good practice.
  7. If you post photos online via social networks or other methods, do turn off the location services metadata in the photo. Metadata discloses a lot of information about the photo- when, where, and from which device it was taken. You can turn this off by using the geotagging feature in your phone’s settings.
  8. The use of security software allows you to detect spyware on your device and reduces your chances of being cyberstalked. It helps to prevent spyware from being installed on your computer via a phishing attack or an infected webpage.

4. What to do if you are being cyberstalked?

  1. Use the email filtering feature to block or filter emails from a stalker. Sometimes you can also block chatroom contact as well.
  2. Consulting parents or an adult whom you can trust would be recommended if you are under 18.
  3. Inform your Internet Service Provider about the situation and request for a new login ID and password or else get a new account if the ISP does not respond.
  4. Report to the police.
  5. Keeping a log of the communications from the stalker can be a good step those logs would serve as the evidence available against the stalker.

Conclusion

Stalking is an abnormal behavior that symbolizes a person with a lack of boundaries, sociopathic tendencies, and a shaky grasp on reality.

Cyberstalking is now being taken seriously. Laws and regulations have come up to do justice to the victims of cyberstalking. On the other hand, it is equally important to educate the people about the precautions to be taken while showing their online presence. 

Cyberstalking can wreck people’s lives but, with adequate safety measures, we can protect ourselves from being cyberstalked.

Prevention is better than cure. Hence everyone should be careful enough to make a conscious digital presence to stay safe from cyberattacks.

“As the world is increasingly interconnected, everyone shares the responsibility of securing cyberspace”- Newton Lee.

KEEP CALM AND SAY NO TO CYBERSTALKING.

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 them an edge in this competitive world.

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