Cyberstalking: How to Protect Your Family
NortonLifeLock’s survey has found that almost half of Americans admit to ‘stalking’ their exes or current partners online without their knowledge or consent. One in ten respondents says they’re using a stalkware app to monitor their partner’s communications and other online activities. This is how simple curiosity and trust issues may intentionally or involuntarily turn into cyberstalking.
Cyberstalking refers to deliberate, persistent, and sometimes obsessive online actions to stalk and harass another person. It is said that cyberstalking effects at least 40% of adults, with the majority of victims being women. Even though online harassment doesn’t look as threatening as physical stalking, it can cause a range of emotional and psychological traumas to victims.
Since the internet can expose anyone to unwanted attention and cyber threats, it’s better to be aware of the risks and know how to protect yourself from disturbing communications that may veer into abuse.
Examples of cyberstalking
Catfishing is one of the most popular techniques for stalking someone online. It occurs on social media websites when creepers create fake user profiles to approach their victims as friends or as someone expressing romantic interest. To look more real, they sometimes impersonate identities of existing users, usually those who are good-looking.
To spot a catfisher isn’t very hard — simply check their friend list (they rarely have many friends), run a reverse Google image search on their profile picture (if it can be found on multiple profiles, it’s a sign of a fake user), or suggest a video call to see their reaction.
Tracking your location using geotags or location check-ins on social media can document your behavior patterns and whereabouts quite accurately. Every digital photo you take may contain geotags, which reveal when and where your picture was taken. If you add location check-ins to your Facebook and Instagram posts, you’re letting everyone track you by simply scrolling through your feed.
The above are just a few tricks creepers use online. And they can get very creative, so you should know how to mitigate the risks of exposing yourself.
How to protect yourself from cyberstalkers
Set your social media accounts to private so that your personal info, photos, and updates are visible only to your friends and family instead of everyone on the internet.
Stop yourself from tagging the location of that cool coffee place you’re at. You can also turn off geotagging so that no location-disclosing metadata would be added to your pictures.
Always use strong and unique passwords for your online accounts to protect yourself from being compromised. Enabling two-factor authentication wherever possible would give you an extra layer of security.
Stay away from public Wi-Fi networks. They lack security and are widely exploited by cyberstalkers who snoop on users’ online activity. If you must log in to your account on public Wi-Fi, use a VPN like NordVPN, which encrypts your online activity and protects your private data from outsiders.
If the situation is getting out of hand, and making your accounts private doesn't help, you can try to erase your digital footprint as much as possible. Delete your social media accounts and contact any websites containing your information, asking to scrub it off.
If a stalker attacks you by email or on messaging apps, try to stay calm and record everything. Screenshots might serve as evidence if needed.
Remember, you don’t have to be tormented and cope with inappropriate attention online on your own. If the stalking or threats don’t stop, report the activity to authorities.