The internet has been a blessing since its inception. The very concept of globalization has come into existence just because of the internet. The world that was previously unconnected soon became a global village with different cultures and traditions linking together via the information highway.
The internet brought with it plenty of benefits, but accompanying these benefits came some evils that were previously not known of. These evils include hacking, identity theft, online surveillance, and cyberstalking.
We all know the dangers associated with hacking, identity theft, and internet surveillance, thanks to Facebook and other social networking platforms. What we’re probably not aware of is cyberstalking, which is the most disgusting and dangerous of all these threats.
Most of us are already aware of what cyber stalking is or have encountered real-world stalking at some point in our lives. Women tend to have had more experiences than men. Stalking in its traditional sense refers to a situation where someone is keeping an eye on you without your will or interest. While this is enough to make someone uncomfortable, stalkers do so to know more about their victim so that they can use the learnt information to blackmail their victims or take advantage from them.
Cyberstalking is not too different, except that it’s more efficient than the traditional one. Because of the internet and all of its connectivity, stalkers do not need to follow you around the neighborhood. If you’re not too careful, they can learn everything there is to know about you, without even leaving their dimly lit basements.
They do this by following you on the internet. Because of social media, it’s not too difficult to follow you around. You probably post most of your daily activities on your social media profile. You check into places, post pictures while you’re there, tell people about the movie you recently watched, and share your current mood and feelings.
All the personal information which is nowadays easily available on the internet can become the source of pleasure for any random cyber stalker. He can learn all there is to know about anyone in just a few clicks.
Most cyber stalkers are skilled hackers as well. They can hack into your social profiles and read your chats, and even post stuff from your profiles which can damage your reputation. Once an account gets compromised finding pictures from chats such as those that may have been shared with an intimate friend is cake walk.
Similarly, these hackers can hack your devices too. This means that any private data saved on your phone can be seen and taken over by the hacker. They can even hack into your webcam and watch you live, without you knowing about it.
Today, modern technology has made it much easier for hackers and other cybercriminals to hide their tracks. With a specialized cyber security tool such as a VPN, anyone can become completely anonymous and invisible online, making it impossible for anyone to detect your presence or activities.
There are many other cybersecurity services that hackers and cyber criminals use for their unfair advantage. These include proxies and remote servers that allow hackers to keep bouncing their traffic on to different servers, thereby keeping them safe from getting detected.
While cyberstalking is an issue for all genders, women are the most affected. When cyber stalkers get their desired info, they use it to blackmail the victim and force them to do special favors. Some demand money, others demand more heinous things. And there’s no end to all this blackmailing. Those who are affected even turn towards suicide just to bring an end to all this creepiness and blackmailing.
According to some recent estimations, 94% of women who use the internet have faced cyberstalking at some point in their life. Moreover, 62% of all cyberstalking victims are young women between the age of 18 and 24.
Over 20,000 cyberstalking cases get reported each year and this number keeps growing every next year. We also know that there may be an equal number of cases which never get reported due to the taboos and stigmas attached with being a victim of cyber stalking. What’s worse is that cyberstalking has been on the rise for many years. Psychologytoday.com says that, cyberstalking is the fastest growing crime and at least 1 million women are cyber-stalked in the US alone. According to a report by WHOA, 60% of all cyberstalking victims are women while 40% are teenage boys and adult males.
The following are a few examples of cyberstalkers who like to prey on the innocents:
These are people who refuse to believe that their relationship no longer exists. Intimate partner stalkers are emotionally abusive who want to control their partner despite their breakup. They would continue to keep a constant eye on their separated partner and continue to make them feel extremely uncomfortable, violated, and scared.
These are people who may suffer from major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, manic-depression, or erotomania. They believe that the victim is in love with him/her and that they are in a relationship even though the victim has no clue about this imaginary relationship. Other delusional stalkers believe that if they pursue the person long enough, the victim would eventually give up and fall in love.
These people are motivated by vengeance. Vengeful stalkers have a cause to be angry with their victims. Vengeful stalkers are often targeted by members of their university or college faculty/staff. Some of these are psychopaths, while others are delusional and believe that they are the victims even though they’re not. Vengeful stalkers stalk to get even.
What’s worse about cyberstalking is that there is virtually no awareness on it. Those who are affected by this issue do not know how to deal with it. This is because most victims prefer to stay quiet to save their name and their reputation. Others can’t even find the right platforms to raise their voice and find the right kind of help.
However, there are businesses and organizations that are standing up against cyberstalking and are using their resources and their knowledge to help the victims. Cyberstalking is a menace but it can be dealt with if proper precautions are followed. You can follow some important precautions mentioned here and stay safe from cyberstalking.
Anas Baig is a Cybersecurity & Tech Writer. He has been featured on major media outlets including TheGuardian, Lifehacker Australia, The Next Web, CSO, ITProPortal, Infosec Magazine, Tripwire and many others. He writes about online security and privacy, IoT, AI, and Big Data. If you’d like to get in touch, send an email to email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @anasbaigdm.
(Security Affairs – Cyberstalking, cybersecurity)