How to Identify and Prevent Cyberstalking

Social media has occupied a sizable proportion of our personal lives, blurring the line between engagement and cyberstalking. These platforms have gained access to important parts of our real identity: our addresses, phone numbers, check-ins, colleges, digital workplaces, and everything that is available online. We even mark certain contacts as our family, relatives, close friends, and team members. No matter how many privacy settings we activate, it only takes a few minutes of digging to extract someone’s data and while we keep enjoying a few likes and growing social popularity, there are people who love taking advantage of such information.

What is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking has become a legitimate concern for many digital security enthusiasts. A cyberstalker uses social media, instant messaging email services, and other online communication tools to intimidate or harass a victim. They can extract sensitive social information, and then follow a victim on every available online platform. There is a blurry line between stalking and cyberstalking; the latter is a more serious issue – a stalker’s intention makes all the difference. While cyberstalking is virtual, it can lead to physical stalking if prompt appropriate action is not taken. Cyberstalkers find out where the victims live and work. They follow the victims after school or work and eventually harm or harass them in person. It is also a serious concern because cyberstalkers can hold victims’ data hostage and lock their internet-dependent devices. They tend to affect victims’ digital identity and control their online behavior.

Some people choose to take loud legal action against cyberstalkers in the digital workplace; many others fail to identify if they are being stalked, stay silent, and choose to ignore the annoying behavior until they face serious consequences outside the digital world.

How to identify cyberstalking?

While it may start from a few likes and comments on a user’s online activity, it can soon turn into annoying or threatening behavior. Remember that occasional likes and respectful comments on certain photographs, job updates, and check-ins can’t be classified as cyberstalking. However, there is nothing wrong in being vocal about continuous poking, even if nobody else finds it annoying or disrespectful. You can choose to politely warn the stalker and if the behavior persists, you have all the right to register a complaint or take other legal actions. After all, it is better to prevent an issue than later finding ways to cure the damage.

Commonly reported cyberstalking behaviors include: 

  1. Monitoring individuals on social media and other online platforms.
  2. Installing malware to gain unauthorized access to an individual’s webcam and microphones.
  3. Approaching users on social media after creating new fake profiles or impersonating existing profiles.
  4. Posting derogatory comments on an individual or group’s online activities because of their physical, medical, psychological condition, ethnic or geographic background, and religious beliefs.
  5. Verbally or graphically threatening an individual or group, first online then in person.
  6. Calling, messaging, emailing an individual repeatedly, and sending harassing or annoying content

9 Steps to Prevent and Control Cyberstalking

Digital privacy advocates are taking strict actions against cyberthreats including cyberstalking and cyberbullying practices. When you follow social media hygiene, share cyberstalking information, and contribute to cyberstalking campaigns, you are also playing a major part in creating a safe and secure internet experience for yourself, your family, friends, and everyone else on the internet.

1. Refer to local cyberstalking laws

Check local laws or approach your closest lawyers to gain a thorough insight into the legal implications associated with cyberstalking. Once you know the legal options available for victims of such crime, make sure to educate your loved ones, your children, your colleagues, and others in your social network and prepare them to combat such issues if need be.

2. Talk to your kids and students

If you are a parent, mentor, teacher, or coach, or hold an influential position surrounded by young adults, teens, and tweens, generate discussions about cyberstalking behavior and laws that protect the victims. Kids, especially girls are often being cyberstalked but they choose to stay silent when they can’t identify the intentions of the stalker or are not confident that others would believe them. As a parent, keep a regular check on your children’s social media profiles and discuss with them if you notice suspicious activities. Also, instruct them to only follow or add profiles of people who they know in real life.

3. Share limited information on social media

While an open and fair internet experience should not stop anybody from uploading their favorite content, the current status of cybersecurity worldwide suggests us to be a little more cautious and particular about what and with whom we share our information. Only exchange limited information on social media, and avoid sharing sensitive data that may be used against you. Some social media platforms do require your cellphone numbers and home addresses for verification and recovery purposes so it might not be possible to keep using social services without providing real information.

4. Review Privacy settings on social media websites

If you are required to share personally identifiable information, make sure to limit the audience who can view such details. Major social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have a variety of privacy features; use them to prevent unauthorized access to your social profile, and ensure that unwanted users do not find your LinkedIn email and contact you. If you already follow custom privacy settings, review them and limit the audience for past posts and updates.

5. Encrypt your online traffic

Pass all your online traffic through secure tunnels so that nobody, including your ISP, can monitor or poke you online. Use a reliable VPN service that masks the IP address and uses 256-bit encryption standards to secure the digital footprints and online activities of users. In case a cyberattacker attempts to penetrate your network, he might not be able to view your search queries or decode your online behavior.

6. Manage your passwords

Cyberstalkers are not always strangers who are too interested in another individual’s personal life: it may be an ex-partner, coworker, friend, or a business competitor who might be cyberstalking an internet user out of jealousy, hatred, or some other emotion. Plus, cyberstalkers are not only interested in knowing your movements: they might do more using your movements and the patterns of your digital behavior. They may harm you to the extent of financial fraud, sign you up for services you did not request, expose your home address and social security numbers on open platforms, spread rumors or share sensitive information with your neighbors or colleagues to make you feel embarrassed. If they get access to your work devices, they might steal your company’s data and threaten you for ransom.

To avoid these consequences, digital experts at iProVPN suggest all internet users follow strict password management benchmarks. Use different complex passwords on major online platforms. Change them right away if you notice an individual stalking you on social media. If you are working from home, follow strict cybersecurity standards to protect your data and reputation.

7. Be vocal about cyberstalking

When you see such actions coming, make sure to nip in the bud, block and report the stalker. If you notice the stalker annoying other users or following your family members or friends, tell your social circle to unfollow the profile, block and report it. Massive action against such profiles results in permanent bans on such profiles. Don’t explain but do mention that you do not welcome certain types of comments or reacts on social media.

8. Collect evidence

If you believe somebody is cyberstalking you, gather proof by taking screenshots of such activity: no like, comment, or share should go unnoticed. These pieces of evidence come in handy when a victim attempts to report cyberstalking and takes legal action against the cyberstalker. If you’ve been cyberstalked via email, make sure to save copies of such emails since stalkers can send self-destructing emails and when you plan to report, you might fail to access that old threatening content.

9. Reduce digital fingerprinting

Avoid oversharing on social media and delete your search history. Don’t announce if you are going to check-in at a specific place. Use secure browsers, email service providers, and password managers to ensure security and privacy.

Final Words

Social media platforms, privacy advocates, and most local laws are by your side in your movement against cyberstalking. Play your part by educating and preparing your loved ones, installing cybersecurity tools and reviewing other users’ engagement with your profile. We wish to create a safe and secure internet experience for everyone regardless of their location. Therefore, our digital presence is aimed at equipping our users with the right privacy tools. Put your safe foot forward in the modern digital world!

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