This January, as part of Stalking Awareness Month, we wanted to provide you with tips for cyberstalking prevention. Because unfortunately, with the amount of young adults on social media, the chances of being a victim are quite high.In fact, one in four stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking, such as email and text messaging. With all the possible ways a stalker can reach you, it is important to know how to protect yourself.
So What Exactly is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is defined as “a crime in which the attacker harasses a victim using electronic communication,” such as emails,text messaging and social media. Examples of cyberstalking behaviorsinclude blackmail, harassing a victim’s family and other scare tactics. As of 2000,VAWA placed cyberstalking under the prevue of federal law. But, this doesn’t mean it has deterred attackers from stalking someone online.
How You Can Protect Yourself from Cyber Stalkers
Don’t Accept Friend Requests from People You Don’t Know
It is always good practice to screen social media requests before accepting them. Chances are if you don’t recognize the name or have mutual friends, you most likely don’t know the person. And, this can help you avoid connecting with “fake” profiles. These profiles are a common way for stalkers to create a persona to attract a victim. This phenomenon is akin to the phrase “catfishing.” Also, with apps (like Instagram and Snapchat) that use usernames rather than real names, make sure you verify the identity of people before accepting them.
See What Information About You is Public Online
Another good thing to do from time to time is to search your name on Google. This will allow you to see what information about you is available to the publiconline. Doing this will also help you adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
Many social media websites frequently change their privacy policies – and many times, you might not even realize it’s happened. But, it’s extremely important to review these changes as soon as you can and update your privacy settings.
If you aren’t sure how to interpret the changes, try searching online for an explaination. There’s a good chance someone has already posted in a forum or written at article about the changes.
Avoid Sending Personal Information Over Public Wi-Fi
When using Wi-Fi in a library or coffee shop, make sure to send personal information over secured webpages. Tech savvy people can sometimes intercept data over unsecured lines. This could lead to your information getting into the hands of a cyberstalker.
Utilize Anti-Spyware and Virus Software
Many times, cyberstalkers use the same tactics as hackers – espcially when it comes to malware and computer viruses. For example, a cyber stalker may try to install a keylogger onto your computer, which would log your keystrokes. With this information, they could find out your usernames and passwords. Then, it’s easy to log into your email accounts or social media to spy on your online activity. Installing anti-spyware and virus software can thwart many of these unwanted programs from infecting your computer.
Cover Your Webcam
Recently, it was discovered that the head of FBI (and even Mark Zuckerberg!) covers his personal webcam on his laptop. And while many people ridiculed him, deeming it unnecessary, there may be some validity to the practice. Malware can grant access to a webcam and have it snap photos or record videos. And with many high end figures taking precautions, it might be time for the rest of us to follow along. While places likeThe Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sell stickers on their website to cover your webcam, a cheaper solution is to use a piece of electrical tape that can be removed when you want to use your webcam.
Consistently Change Passwords
Another good practice is to change your passwords on a consistent basis. Whether it’s once a month or every three months, changing your passwords prevents unwarranted access to your accounts. On top of this, if two-factor authentication is available, you should use it as well.
While these provisions may seem daunting, implementing them is a smart way to ensure you stay safe online. Everyone with an online profile is at risk of being targeting by a potential stalker. Following these steps will help you reduce your online footprint and ensure you stay safe. If you do feel like you are a victim of cyberstalking, do not hesitate to reach out to a campus advisor. They will be able to help you find resolution to your issue.
If you have any tips we failed to mention please let us know in the comments below!