Cyber Stalking and Cyber Harassment and how
we can avoid it.
Over the past two decades, technology has surged into businesses,
communities, and the lives of individuals, altering the way that people
communicate, study, work, and interact. People in various parts of the
world can communicate in real time on a variety of devices such as cell
phones, tablets, or computers. A photo, video, text message, or email
may be viewed by a single individual, shared with another or �go viral�
and spread to hundreds of thousands of users in a matter of minutes. But
unfortunately the Technology keeps improving, which in turn influences
the way that people interact by promoting global communication and
allowing individuals to connect with others more readily. However, the
Internet and related technology have also become new mediums for
misconduct, in that communications via the Internet can be used to
threaten, harass, intimidate, and cause harm to others, meaning the
internet we are using has its own dark side.
What is Cyber-stalking? Cyber stalking is the use of the Internet, email
or other electronic communications to stalk, and generally refers to a
pattern of threatening or malicious behaviors. Cyber stalking may be
considered the most dangerous of the three types of Internet harassment,
based on a posing credible threat of harm. Sanctions range from
misdemeanors to felonies.
What is Cyber harassment? Cyber harassment differs from cyber stalking
in that it may generally be defined as not involving a credible threat.
Cyber harassment usually pertains to threatening or harassing email
messages, instant messages, or to blog entries or websites dedicated
solely to tormenting an individual. Some states approach cyber
harassment by including language addressing electronic communications in
general harassment statutes, while others have created stand-alone cyber
Stalking by strangers:
There isn't a single definition of a cyber-stalker, and they can be
either strangers to the victim or have a former/present relationship.
"[Cyber stalkers] come in all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. They
patrol Web sites looking for an opportunity to take advantage of
Harassment and stalking because of gender online is common, and can
include rape threats and other threats of violence, as well as the
posting of the victim's personal information. It is blamed for limiting
victims' activities online or driving them offline entirely, thereby
impeding their participation in online life and undermining their
autonomy, dignity, identity, and opportunities.
Of intimate partners:
Cyber stalking of intimate partners is the online harassment of a
current or former romantic partner. It is a form of domestic violence,
and experts say its purpose is to control the victim in order to
encourage social isolation and create dependency. Harassers may send
repeated insulting or threatening e-mails to their victims, monitor or
disrupt their victims' e-mail use, and use the victim's account to send
e-mails to others posing as the victim or to purchase goods or services
the victim does not want. They may also use the Internet to research and
compile personal information about the victim, to use in order to harass
him or her.
Of celebrities and public persons:
Profiling of stalkers shows that almost always they stalk someone they
know or, via delusion, think they know, as is the case with stalkers of
celebrities or public persons in which the stalkers feel they know the
celebrity even though the celebrity does not know them. As part of the
risk they take for being in the public eye, celebrities and public
figures are often targets of lies or made-up stories in tabloids as well
as by stalkers, some even seeming to be fans.
By anonymous online mobs:
Web technologies have enabled online groups of anonymous people to
self-organize to target individuals with online defamation, threats of
violence and technology-based attacks. These include publishing lies and
doctored photographs, threats of rape and other violence, posting
sensitive personal information about victims, e-mailing damaging
statements about victims to their employers, and manipulating search
engines to make damaging material about the victim more prominent.
Victims frequently respond by adopting pseudonyms or going offline
Experts attribute the destructive nature of anonymous online mobs to
group dynamics, saying that groups with homogeneous views tend to become
more extreme. As members reinforce each other�s beliefs, they fail to
see themselves as individuals and lose a sense of personal
responsibility for their destructive acts. In doing so they dehumanize
their victims, becoming more aggressive when they believe they are
supported by authority figures. Internet service providers and website
owners are sometimes blamed for not speaking out against this type of
Corporate cyber stalking:
Corporate cyber stalking is when a company harasses an individual
online, or an individual or group of individuals harasses an
organization. Motives for corporate cyber stalking are ideological, or
include a desire for financial gain or revenge
How can you prevent someone
from stalking you online?
� Be careful what personal information you share online including in
email, on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and chat
rooms. It is very easy to glean information about where you live, the
places you love to go to in your area and the people you care about from
posts and pictures.
� Create a different email account for registering in social networking
sites and other online spaces. It will help avoid spam and your personal
email won�t be revealed if the online service doesn�t have a good
� Do not feel obligated to fill out all fields when registering online
or provide identifying information such as birthdates and place in
� In your online user profile, use a photo that doesn�t identify you or
your location, so you can�t be recognized.
� Consider using a name that is not your real name or a nickname as your
email name, screen name or user ID. And try not to use common dates such
as your birthday as the digits in your email name or password. Instead,
pick a name that is gender- and age-neutral. Treat your email and/or
internet account like you would your credit card, ID or passport number
� very carefully.
� If you are breaking up with an intimate partner � especially if they
are abusive, troubled, angry or difficult � reset every single password
on all of your accounts, from email and social networking accounts to
bank accounts, to something they cannot guess.
it is a good idea to check your privacy settings to make sure you are
sharing the information you want to share with people you trust and not
the general internet public. Some sites have options for you to test how
your profile is being viewed by others � test and make sure you only
reveal what is absolutely necessary.
� What information are family and friends posting about you? Let them
know your concerns about privacy and help them learn better privacy
� Do an internet search of your name regularly and monitor where you
appear online. If you find unauthorized info about yourself online,
contact the website moderator to request its removal.
� Make sure that your internet service provider (ISP), cell phone
service, instant messenger (called internet relay chat, or IRC in some
terms of service) network and other services you use has an acceptable
they create one and/or switch to a provider that is more responsive to
user privacy concerns and complaints.
� Try keeping your web cam closed/taped whenever you are not using it.
What should you do if someone starts stalking you online?
� Trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable or an online situation
becomes hostile, remove yourself from the online space by logging off or
surfing elsewhere, or block the other person�s access to you.
� If you are receiving unwanted contact, make clear to that person that
you would like him or her not to contact you again. Many women who have
reported being harassed do this and warn that any further contact will
result in the filing of a police report. Depending on the harasser,
engagement with the person can escalate or cease, so if you consider
contact appropriate and necessary, do so once and document it.
� Save all communications with the stalker for evidence. Do not edit or
alter them in any way. Try using print screens, especially if the
harassment is happening in real-time.
� If the harasser posts comments on your blog, keep copies but also
consider not publishing rather than deleting abusive posts.
� Keep a record of your communications with internet system
administrators or law enforcement officials if you report the stalker to
authorities. Record-keeping is absolutely crucial so keep everything,
even though the immediate desire might be to delete the communication
from the stalker and try to forget about it. Back up these
communications on another computer or removable memory stick or external
� Consider blocking or filtering messages from the harasser. Many email
programs have a filter feature. Chat room contact can also be blocked,
and you can activate the �IP address block� option on your blog or
website if someone posts harassing comments continuously.
� If your internet searches reveal that the stalker is publishing
harmful information about you in other online spaces, make a complaint
to the moderators/managers of the external site. State that you view
this as part of a continuing situation of online harassment towards you,
and request that they either block the harasser�s IP, remove posts, or
caution the harasser to cease or be blocked.
� Tell your family and friends that someone is stalking you online.
Being stalked � online or offline � is a traumatic experience and
support from your family and friends is critical at this time to help
you cope. Also check what they are revealing about you and their
relationship with you in their online spaces, albeit inadvertently.
After reading this article I hope it will give you an idea about what
Cyber Harassments and Stalking is all about and not to be a victim of
it. Think twice before publishing anything using internet specially your
pictures, videos etc. Always make sure you are secured on the web. Be
responsible about yourself and the others.
Information Security Engineer � Intern
Sri Lanka Cert | CC
BEng (Reading) Software Engineering
University Of Westminster, UK
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