Online communication, whether through social media like Facebook or Instagram, or on website forums and internet marketplaces, is one of the defining features of modern-day life. All of us, at some point, have reconnected with an old friend, made new ones, or transacted business with people we both know in real life and have only met online. Online communication allows us to speak to people all over the world instantly, and it has had many benefits both socially and professionally. But communication over unsecured networks can also expose you to numerous dangers, including cyberstalking.
In this article, we take a look at what cyberstalking is, how to stop cyberstalking, and the best options for online security to help you stay anonymous online.
What is cyberstalking?
Put simply, cyberstalking is when an individual or group follows, contacts repeatedly, and harasses an individual or group online. There are all sorts of forms it can take. For example, the target could be a young student trying to make friends in an online chat room, or it could be a large multinational organization. And the type of harassment can vary from threatening messages, extortion, slander, bullying, defamation, and even hacking. There are many motives – identity theft, theft of property, to cause emotional grief, or simply just to troll people (intentionally aggravating someone by posting inflammatory content).
What’s important to know is that it’s not the victim’s fault, but that many of us leave ourselves very vulnerable to cyberstalking because we fail to take basic security measures while we are online. For example, we all share our personal details with social media platforms, publish intimate stories about our lives to thousands of people online without realizing who is in the audience, and we hand over sensitive information every time we sign up to a new service or go shopping online. All of these are easy ways for our information to be sold, stolen, or to simply fall into the hands of cyberstalkers.
Often, cyberstalking starts out as a simple conversation with someone you don’t know – or with someone you think you know. It can be harmless at first, perhaps a couple of unusual messages or unpleasant jokes. But it can quickly turn more serious: frequent, annoying messages that cause emotional grief and can even be frightening.
If you start to receive unwanted and annoying messages over a long period of time that make you feel uncomfortable and even harassed, then you are no longer just the victim of a few negative comments, you are actually being cyberstalked. Cyberstalkers will send several messages everyday over a period of weeks or months, and the same cyberstalker can use several different accounts under false identities to contact you and harass you. If it gets to this level and you feel threatened, the number one thing to do is contact your local police authority and report it to the website owners as well. Most countries have laws in place to prevent cyberstalking because it is a crime.
Who is behind cyberstalking?
The first thing to know is that, just like real life stalking, most cyberstalkers actually know their victims before they begin to harass them. It could be a work colleague, a friend, or even a family member who is using online communication to send you unwanted messages either under their own name or under a fake account. But cyberstalking can also be carried out by strangers. For example, there are many sexual predators online who will seek out vulnerable individuals they do not know and cyberstalk them. There are two common types of cyberstalker:
This is a type of online deception where a person will create a sockpuppet presence or a fake identity on either a social networking service or another platform such as a video game chatroom and will use this to target a specific victim over a long period of time to perform abuse or conduct fraud. Its most common form is in romance scams on dating websites, where a cyberstalker will feign romantic intentions towards an individual to get them to reveal personal details about themselves.
This is a fairly common term bandied about on the internet nowadays. A troll is someone who initiates flame wars (posting insults laced with profanity to social media sites to instigate arguments). Often it can be randomly directed, such as posting random off-topic content to newsrooms, forums, or chat rooms. But occasionally it can be targeted at one person specifically, and that’s when it becomes cyberstalking.
How to stop cyberstalking
There are several simple ways to boost your online security and prevent cyberstalkers from being able to track down your location and other personal information. We list a few here:
1. Keep a low profile.
This may sound obvious, but the less time you spend online and the less information you post in public forums about yourself, the harder it is for a cyberstalker to track you down and harass you. It’s important never to post your personal details such as your phone number or your physical address when online, and you may even wish to use a fake name or avoid using your own image as your profile picture. When you interact with others online, always be wary of people you don’t know or who seem too good to be true. You can do some digging into their background or just ignore them.
2. Update the software you use.
Most of the devices that we use to connect to the internet – whether that’s our iPhone, Android, Mac, or PC – have inbuilt security features that can help protect you from accidentally revealing your identity online, and which can protect you from hacking and cyberstalkers. They only work, however, if you regularly update your device.
3. Use a VPN.
One option to prevent cyberstalkers from becoming real life stalkers is to use a virtual private network to connect to the internet. This will hide your IP address and prevent companies and other individuals from tracking down your real location.
The best way to prevent cyberstalking
It’s difficult to implement all of these different ways to stop cyberstalking. Luckily, CoverMe is your one-stop-shop for all your online security needs. CoverMe is a free downloadable app that uses military-grade security features like end-to-end encryption to keep you anonymous online and to prevent cyberstalkers from obtaining your personal details. You can download it easily from the App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Androids.
CoverMe is a private messaging app which lets you create alternative numbers that you can use to text and call people anonymously. Its high-tech security enables you to send calls or messages anonymously by securely encrypting the outgoing data using VoIP.
It lets you create private groups with friends so you can share messages with them, send files, photos and videos, and even broadcast – all securely encrypted so no one else can get their hands on your personal details.
CoverMe also has a number of other additional security features:
1. Personal Vault.
CoverMe’s personal vault allows you to store your files, contacts, messages and photos in a password-protected vault on your phone.
2. Decoy Password.
CoverMe lets you set up decoy passwords that will alert you if someone is trying to break into your phone.
3. Self-destructing messages.
CoverMe provides the option for self-destructing messages, so there’s no chance for your conversations to be redistributed and shared without your consent.
4. Message Recall.
Another handy feature of CoverMe is the ability to recall messages after you’ve sent them, ensuring that none of your private conversations accidentally end up with the wrong recipient!
5. Multiple Numbers.
CoverMe lets you set up multiple phone numbers on the same device, so you can keep your work life and your personal life separate.
So what are you waiting for? Download CoverMe today by clicking the link here.