Have you ever felt as though someone is watching you? Offline or online? That your every move has been monitored and perpetrators used your information on social media against you?
It should go without saying that victims of cyber stalking can experience tremendous mental suffering and find their mental health deteriorating rapidly. Often, even those in the close circle of the victim don’t notice changes in their behaviour until it is too late.
According to Tech Jury: “Victims of cyberbullying are 1.9 times more likely to commit suicide.”
It is easy to find documentaries about cybercrime and cyber stalking on today’s streaming service platforms, however, it seems no one takes this criminal activity seriously until it happens to them.
Finding out if you are being stalked online is even more challenging than figuring out if someone is monitoring you offline.
Let’s discuss the following:
- Who could be an online stalker
- Why cyber stalkers stalk
- Types of cyberstalking
- Comparing offline and online stalking
- What should you do if you believe you are a target of cyber stalking?
Different tactics can be used in cyber stalking.
Cyber stalking is happening across all digital gadgets, and for younger generations cyberstalking is mostly conducted on mobile phone devices.
Cyber stalking is a relatively new identified criminal activity; however, we can certainly draw parallels with stalking.
According to AIC (Australian Institute of Criminology, No166 Cyberstalking) “Cyberstalking is analogous to traditional forms of stalking in that it incorporates persistent behaviours that instil apprehension and fear”.
It’s possible that someone is quietly gathering data or that they’ve made contact. Online harassment, slander, libel and slander are all forms of cyber stalking.
Private messages or emails from people you don’t know could be sent to you. It’s possible that you’ll discover that someone has hacked into and used your online accounts. If you have your phone with you, someone may be using spyware to monitor the GPS tracker, allowing them to always know where you are.
Who could be an online stalker?
Anyone could be a stalker and the reasons for stalking someone online can vary.
Some people experience stalking from strangers, while other do so from acquaintances.
A cyber stalker could be an abusive spouse or an ex-partner.
A cyber stalker might be an overbearing parent, it can be a former co-worker or even a stranger.
The majority of cyberstalking victims already know the individual who is pursuing them.
People who are well known and famous are more likely to face stalking from strangers.
The reason why we don’t have a profile for a “cyber stalker” and its modus operandi is simple. Everyone feels safe behind their screens, believing no one will discover them and bring them to justice.
Why cyber stalkers stalk?
Online harassment and stalking are the most common types of abuse.
Harassment online can be done under some degree of anonymity. The online harasser does not have to leave the comfort of their home in order to find, pursue, and harass the target because they have no fear of physical retaliation.
Love obsessed stalkers frequently think that the object of their desires truly loves them, which makes it impossible for them to understand the word "NO". A love fixation might begin with an online engagement that ends because the rejected partner is unable to accept the breakup.
Then, there are the hate-revenge stalkers. In this group, more men are the target. An argument or disagreement that spirals out of control may serve as the catalyst for a hate vendetta. Another reason someone can be the target of a vendetta is because of their beliefs.
The ego trip stalkers typically chose a victim at random, someone they don't know. The harasser’s goal is to impress themselves and their friends with their talent. They are using the victim to show their dominance within their own group; they don't hold a personal grudge against the victim.
Comparing offline and online stalking.
Stalking occurs more frequently with former intimates. The majority of victims are women and the majority of stalkers are men. Most stalkers are driven by a desire to exert control over the victim.
Online stalkers can be found anywhere, unlike offline stalking which typically requires both the stalker and the victim to be in the same region. With the use of electronic communication technologies, it is considerably simpler for a cyber stalker to persuade others to harass and/or threaten a victim without actually confronting the target.
Types of cyberstalking:
- Email Stalking – if we compare to stalking before internet, stalkers would use their personal or public phones, and mail to harass the victim. Today, the phone is replaced with email. Instant communication can occur between the stalker and victim and emails can be sent with viruses, subscriptions to pornographic sites, spam etc.A stalker will try to establish a “relationship” with the victim, repair a relationship or perhaps attempt to traumatise the victim to the extent of suicide.
- Internet Stalking – this modus operandi is where the stalker follows the victim on all social media platforms, monitoring and recording what the victim does. The stalker usually uses public domains to place false information and discredit and defame the victim.
- Computer Stalking – the stalker will utilise and exploit vulnerabilities on the operating system of the victim’s computer (hacking). In that way, there is a buffer between victim and stalker, usually physical distance. That said, the stalker will then do their best to control the victim’s computer remotely.
What should you do if you believe you are a target of cyber stalking?
First of all, do not share personal information in public spaces, public domains and even if you do share information, please, keep that that to a minimum.
No one is saying that your personal information cannot be found but why would you give it up on a silver platter?
The first step in protecting ones’ self from cyber stalking is to take action.
- Change the passwords on your accounts and confirm that you are using the privacy controls offered. Make sure to block the stalker if you think you know who is following you.
- Check that all of your linked devices have operational and up to date antivirus and antispyware software.
- Ensure password protection is in place for your wireless router.
- Keep copies of every communication as proof. Don't change or edit them in any way.
- Additionally, keep a record of any interactions you have with the law, such as Police or internet system administrators.
- Make contact with your local police station and give them as much information as you can about the circumstance or refer to the relevant government body.
Be careful and know that as soon as you are in a public domain, you must be prepared for the chance that someone will try to stalk you.