Cyberstalking – Here’s How to Protect Yourself Online
By Nick Anderson 6 minutes
Privacy is a hot topic mainly for two reasons. Firstly, big tech corporations are evidently doing little to protect it. Secondly, users are facing the repercussions of sharing their life online in the form of cyberstalking.
There was a time when the only way you could find details about someone was by physically stalking the person or looking up the phone directory. But that is a thing of the past now. More – and potentially more harmful – types of cyberstalking have emerged thanks to social media.
The fact is that social media accounts hold so much information that someone can easily track interests, travel history, physical location, family and friends. It’s not even about social media giants not doing enough to protect our privacy, but that we tend to overlook what we share with people. As a result, people know too much about us, perhaps even more than our parents of siblings.
The word cyber describes the virtual world of connected computers. Cyberstalking means an obsession to gather information on a person for the purpose of causing harm. Take the example of Facebook. Someone with an interest in you – for whatever reason – will check out all your posts, your likes, your check-ins, your comments, and everything else you have made visible to the public.
Cyberstalking has real-world implications beyond the common unsolicited messages. Women – especially – are no stranger to unwanted attention from strangers. Sexual harassment is not just happening in the corridors of workplaces and other places but it has victimized many online as well. Online harassment is often an extension of physical harassment.
Stalkers Might Follow You Based on Your Activities
Social media conversations take place on personal space, pages or groups, or your friend’s space. Imagine your friends make plans for a movie during the conversation or you reveal your plans to catch a movie, the stalker can see the information and potentially intercept you physically at the movie.
It is why you must absolutely be mindful of what you share on the internet and whom you share it with.
Catfishing means impersonating someone or assuming a fake profile on social media for the purpose of luring someone into a relationship. Regardless of the end purpose, the first step is always to gain the trust of the victim, then move forward with the nefarious purpose.
In the worst case scenario, such attempts could lead to blackmail. The perpetrator could gain access to content that you might have shared in confidence.
The scale of cyberstalking goes beyond just fraud, it can be used to defame.
It is very easy to make fake social media accounts. All it takes is someone willing enough to go through the process of building a convincing profile and it can then be used to defame. An account could be setup in your name with your profile picture and rudimentary personal information, and the perpetrator could start posting hate speech or explicit language through the account.
Observers may not confirm your identity by looking into your content – if they do check, at all. You can become a victim of defamation that can lead to many consequences, such as disturbed personal life.
Controlling Your Device
Stalkerware is a term derived from spyware which is exactly what it sounds like. It is a software that tracks everything you do on your device, such as web browsing history, calls, texts and location data. A perpetrator could even use your webcam to spy on you.
We’ve talked about how an Evil Twin Attack uses a fake access point to lure you into establishing a connection. If a perpetrator is hellbent in causing you harm, it’s possible he might try to carry out the said attack.
How to Prevent Cyberstalking
You are in total control when it comes to your digital life; you decide the content you put up for others to see. Here are a few tips on how to stay protected against such cyber threats.
- Limit the audience with whom you share your personal data, such as photos and videos. Facebook allows you to restrict people from your timeline or make posts available to select audiences, such as Friends or a custom group. A restricted list limits the chosen people to public posts only.
- If you feel someone is trying to catfish you then there are a few ways you can find the legitimacy of the profile. Usually catfish profiles are only a couple of days old with very few posts and friends. The profile may feel like a bunch of people were added randomly. Real people usually have their own pictures. And you can check for authenticity by running a Google Image Search. Save the picture, go to images.google.com then drag/drop the photo in the search bar. If the picture has a different owner, you’ll know.
- Your social media profile is a book – it’s called Facebook for a reason. A book that is open for people to see. If you are in a habit of sharing your location in photos or posting check-ins, it’s time to stop., or at least limit who can see them. Set your Instagram profile to private so that only approved people can see it.
- Don’t click on suspicious links from strangers. It may be an attempt to install spyware on your device or trick you into entering information or login credentials.
- Always use Two-Factor Authentication. Many people don’t realize this feature exists and how it can save your account from being accessed by someone. Two-Factor Authentication sends a code to a trusted device or email account which you then use to authenticate login on new a device. You can choose to set the browser to always remember as a trusted device or you can follow the process every time.
Social media is a fun place to be where you can connect and meet new friends. But our sense of consideration over the sharing of personal information on the web is receding. Cyberstalking is a real phenomenon, which is affecting a lot of people, going as far as to cause traumatic experiences and damage to personal reputation.
You can also take advantage of FastestVPN, so that the ISP cannot track what websites you visit.