Cyber stalking is, in a nutshell, the use of technology to gather personal information, track and monitor.
Examples of some behaviours include using social media to research someone’s movements and/or networks, gaining access to someone’s emails, devices or networks, uploading spyware or malware of some kind, placing a tracker on someone’s car, using equipment to record someone’s conversations. Cyber stalking also includes gaining access to someone’s accounts or devices to delete evidence (for example if someone is keeping a log of harassment on their phone or computer, or if the stalker has sent emails that would count as evidence).
Some cyber stalking behaviours have a threatening and/or vengeful dynamic, for example ‘revenge porn’, doxing and the stalker creating fake profiles as the victim with the intention of damaging their reputation.
Cyber stalking is an area of increasing research and knowledge. Last week the Suzy Lamplugh Trust released results from their recent survey into cyberstalking. Out of the 4,054 British adults polled they found that:
- People between the ages of 18 and 34 are significantly more likely to have been stalked online
- Where online activity was the sole form of stalking behaviour, only 9.8% of victims reported it to the police.
- Over a quarter of victims (28.3%) felt concerned about going out in public and 20.4% reduced their social outings, while 18.6% changed their phone number, one in 10 (9.5%) moved home and 8.7% increased security at home or work.
Whilst we cannot stop cyberstalkers, we can make it harder for them to gain access to, monitor or intercept data. The following is a list of options available to increase online security:
- Come up with a handful of aliases you can use to set up accounts and email
- Use avatars or profile pictures with images other than you on social media
- Search for yourself online from time to time to see what’s available about you
- Check out whether data is leaking from any of your social media accounts using mypermissions.com
- Select the restricted electoral roll to prevent your personal data being sold to companies such as 192.com
- Read privacy statements (they’re boring, but worth it) and go through your account settings every now and again to do a privacy check up
- Use two factor authentification, where possible, to increase account login security
- Download the Tor browser for going online, or HTTPS Everywhere to increase browsing security
- Keep your apps, browsers and programmes up to date with the latest versions (this will be offered automatically), as older versions are more vulnerable to attack
- Use different emails for different things. You can easily create a disposable email using mailnull.com
- Email is pretty insecure, you can encrypt it yourself or use a service such as hushmail or protonmail
- Text messaging is also insecure – Whatsapp is now end-to-end encrypted and Signal is an app that encrypts text messages and phone calls.
- Get yourself a password manager – LastPass is fantastic
You can find more information out about cyber security at GetSafeOnline.org.