People are using their computers daily for recreation, work, and communication on a daily basis and that means the doors for computer crime are opening further quicker than ever. There is one form of computer crime that could potentially cause a considerable amount of damage and distress to a person and it is referred to as cyber stalking, or computer stalking. This type of stalking is defined as using electronics or the Internet to harass, intimidate, monitor, or threaten, or conduct unwanted advancements toward another individual. Under some circumstances, this is accomplished through direct communications via bulletin board postings, chat rooms, email messages, or social media interactions.
Why Does Computer Stalking Occur?
As opposed to cases of offline stalking, computer stalking is typically used in order to harass a victim and this type of harassment on the Internet is growing exponentially. In many cases, the harasser is anonymous and the victim does not know if they are next-door or living across the globe from them, causing the victim to experience severe feelings of embarrassment and fear. Unfortunately, this fear is warranted because under some circumstances the harassment occurring during computer stalking crosses into offline physical stalking cases.
- The harasser wants to be involved romantically.
- They are seeking reconciliation following rejection from their partner.
- They are seeking revenge following a break-up from their partner.
- They are imagining an attachment or other delusions about the victim, be it a romantic attachment or something else entirely.
- They believe injustices have occurred against them by the victim and they are seeking revenge against them.
- They are experiencing hatred, or another form or intolerance toward a specific group.
- This was random computer attack and the victim just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Types of Harassment on the Computer:
- Unwanted emails.
- Spam or other types of bulk messages from the harasser.
- Being the victim of “flaming,” which is how online verbal abuse is defined.
- Being the victim of a computer virus placed by the harasser.
- Being the victim of identity fraud or theft.
- The harasser spreads malicious rumors about you, posts intimate pictures of you, or reveals personal information about you on social media or other public areas online.
- The harasser posts abusive messages that will cause an attack against the victim’s personal reputation or their professional reputation.
- The harasser threatens to harm someone the victim knows, or the victim themselves, either physically, by their reputation, or by some other means.
How to Prevent Computer Stalking
Unfortunately, people tend to leave themselves open to harassment online. There are many ways to prevent this from occurring. For example, it is a good idea to ensure you have the most up-to-date firewall and anti-virus protection installed. You should also never share any personal information within any public spaces or online profiles. Be cautious of anyone you do not know who is pushing for you to reveal any details regarding your private life.
Additional ways to prevent stalking on the computer include keeping your passwords for all of your accounts and devices protected. Be sure you are using nonsensical passwords that have combinations of numbers, letters, and symbols so they are not easily infiltrated. It is also a good idea to change these passwords regularly.
For those who are just getting out of an abusive relationship, make sure all of your passwords are changed immediately. Then, choose screen names for your accounts that are gender neutral so you are not easily found online.
Even though we would love to trust everyone we meet online, it is important to remember that everyone we “meet” is not always who they say they are. The Internet is a resourceful place filled with a plethora of great information and useful tools, but it is also a scary place where crime occurs daily. There is a fine line that must be drawn regularly in order to keep your information safe, as well as your sanity. This is especially true for those who frequent chat rooms, bulletin boards, forums, and social media sites. They say the Internet is forever, so be sure you are careful about what you are posting and who you are meeting.