Cyberstalking: How It Is Done And Ways To Prevent It?
Adjusting privacy settings and keeping personal details private always play a crucial role in keeping strangers away from your online accounts.
Have you ever experienced unpleasant acts of being stalked online? Peeping into somebody’s life through online means irrespective of their age, gender or the group they belong to have become extremely common. The world is evolving at a rapid pace. With technology and IoT taking over every sector, people are becoming hyperactive on online media platforms.
There is no doubt that the adoption of online platforms in performing important activities offers extreme convenience, flexibility and opportunities to connect with the world virtually. When the communication is carried out through online platforms sensibly and professionally, it becomes beneficial for individuals as well as the public using the online forum. However, when people are not careful, it could lead to undesirable cases of cyberstalking.
Cyberstalking, very common among the young population is any form of harassment, bully or unsolicited activity done through the digital medium. Though there is no specific or standalone definition of cyberstalking in Indian legal terms, several debates have taken place to consider any sort of activity related to sharing pornographic content, harassment, threat, abuse, hate crime etc. in online space a serious crime.
Cyber-stalkers usually target an organization, group or individual with themalicious intent of threatening the victim. They misuse the internet, electronic media and nowadays social media to stay anonymous. The most common tools that are used to connect with the victim are emails, social media platforms, online messaging apps or any online public forum. To defame or harass the person, cyber-stalkers use messages, pictures or any other personal information to harm the person not physically but emotionally.
Most common forms of Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking can happen to anyone. However, around 555 cases of cyberstalking and bullying of women in India were registered in 2017, as per the estimates of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). There are many forms through with stalking is carried out in online space:
Online location check-ins: Cyber-stalkers monitor the location check-ins onsocial media platforms that make it easy for them to gauge a victim’s behaviourial pattern or places they visit. It makes the stalker aware of the victim’s whereabouts and finding the physical location quite accurately. Another way of monitoring location is checking geotags of the picture. Every picture is embedded with a geotag that shows the location where the picture was taken.
Computer webcam hijacking is one of the creepiest methods that cyber-stalkers use to invade the victim’s privacy. This method gives access to the stalkers to use the webcam of the victim and click pictures while the victim is unaware of the act. There are several unreported incidents in which stalkers click inappropriate photographs or videos of the victim and use them to threaten or defame the innocent.
Catfishing: This is the most common sign that anyone added to the social media profile is a fake friend. Catfishing is an activity in which a person creates a fictional or fake profile that pretends to be of a real person’s profile. This practice is used to harass the victim online or receive financial gain from them.
Ways to avoid Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking is not always carried out by an acquaintance. Strangers also stalk people online and try to threaten them to fetch money or reap any other benefit. In this fast-moving digital world, it is always better to be proactively safe than reactively safer. A few simple ways can save any person from lowering their self-esteem or emotional balance.
Software-update: This method of safety applies to every device – PC and mobile device. Regular software updates can actually prevent information leaks. Many software updates are targeted to ensure user’s security. Thus, it always better to proactively check for updates on the computer and mobile phone where personal contacts, messages and photographs are saved.
Not disclosing sensitive information: Not only through social media but information can be leaked through other online platforms. If not important, users must avoid filling unnecessary forms or applications to wincoupons or cashback. Additionally, users should always check the website links where they fill in their personal details as many fake websites ask for contact name and number to later harass the user for their own malicious means.
As the world moves towards digitalization, there will be an increased risk of cyberstalking and crime. But maintaining good digital hygiene can help the user leverage positive outcomes of technology. Adjusting privacy settings and keeping personal details private always play a crucial role in keeping strangers away from your online accounts. On the other hand, even if a person becomes a victim of cyberstalking, they should know the legal routes to deal with it. In India, provisions like Information Technology Act, 2000, and The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 consider cyberstalking an offense and take strict action against the stalker.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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