With the amount of online presence that we have today, it is extremely easy for one to stalk another with the help of the Internet. Cyberstalking sure is a sad and creepy part of modern society. Let’s take a closer look at how to recognize it, prevent it, and what to do if you find yourself on a creeper’s radar.
In the real world, stalking definition is unwanted obsessive attention to a specific person. Physical stalking can get forms of following, secretly watching, persistent calling and texting to manipulate, and finding other means to approach the victim unexpectedly.
Now let’s turn to the digital world. Cyber stalkers are driven by the same intention – to embarrass, threaten, or harass their victims. The difference is, they rely on online technology to do it.
Email, social networks, instant messaging, personal data available online – everything on the Internet can be used by cyberstalkers to make inappropriate contact with their victims.
But don’t confuse cyberstalking with social media stalking. ‘Doing research’ on your newly hired colleague by exploring his or her Facebook profile and Instagram feed is rather innocent. Keeping an eye on someone’s activity on social media is simply getting insights into one’s life without giving anything in return.
Cyberstalking is way more serious as it involves nefarious intentions, ranging from false accusations and defamation to sexual harassment and even encouraging others to harass the victim. In many cases, physical and cyber stalking interconnects, making it even more threatening.
So do cyber stalkers violate any laws? As cyberstalking is a form of emotional assault, laws governing harassment and slander are often applied to purely electronic communications. However, such practice is often found problematic because confrontations in cyber world are different than real-life situations.
While some countries apply older laws, others have enacted specific cyberstalking laws. These laws are relatively new and arguably still have room for improvement. Nevertheless, this legal trend draws attention to the problem and positions cyberstalking as a criminal activity.
Catfishing occurs on social media sites, such as Facebook, when online stalkers create fake user profiles and approach their victims as a friend of a friend or expressing romantic interest. To look more like a real person, cyberstalkers sometimes copy profiles of existing users, impersonating their identity.
If you suspect being catfished, these tips can help you indicate a fake user:
If you’re adding location check-ins to your Facebook and Instagram posts, you’re making it super easy for a cyber stalker to track you by simply scrolling through your social media profiles. When combined together, location-tagged posts can indicate your behavior patterns quite accurately.
If cyberstalkers get to know their victim’s home address, all they have to do is open Google Maps and type it in. By using the Street View, they can see exactly how the house looks without even stepping into the victim’s neighborhood and drawing attention. Also, cyberstalkers can virtually research the environment: surrounding houses, cameras, and alleys, to get a sense about the neighbors.
Hijacking a computer’s webcam is one of the creepiest methods cyberstalkers use to invade victim’s privacy. Creepers would try to trick you into downloading and installing a malware-infected file that would grant them access to your webcam. The process is so sneaky that it’s likely you wouldn’t suspect anything strange. If just the thought about someone secretly watching you through your webcam gives you shivers, read how you can tell if your camera has been hacked.
Internet stalkers love geotags – and for a good reason. Every digital picture you take may contain geotags, which are pieces of metadata revealing the location of where and when the photo was taken. Geotags come in the EXIF format, which is embedded into an image file and can be extracted and viewed with the help of special apps. This way, a cyberstalker can learn about your whereabouts.
These are just a few of the tricks creepers use, and in fact, they can get very creative. Let’s look at what you can do to protect yourself from cyberstalkers.