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Cyberstalking



May 14, 2008 Back to Article
Stalking goes high tech
The dictionary defines stalking as “pursuing or approaching someone stealthily, or to harass or persecute someone with unwanted and obsessive attention.” The technological extension of stalking is cyberstalking.

Cyberstalkers take advantage of today’s communications technologies, particularly the Internet and mobile phones, to track, follow, and harass their victims.
Many stalkers aren’t strangers
We have warned, as have many others, about the dangers of giving out too much personal information — your name, physical location, phone number or email — over the Internet, by phone or cell phone to anyone you don’t know. The only problem with those recommendations is that many victims and cyberstalkers already know one another.

Cyberstalkers are more likely to be school classmates or workplace acquaintances, current or former boyfriends and girlfriends, or former spouses — people who have access to your or your kids’ email address or phone number.
Cyberstalkers and spyware
How do you know if you’re being cyberstalked? The most obvious answer is that you are receiving repeated unwanted emails from the same person. Those emails may range from simply unwanted attention to sexual harassment to threatening messages. A less obvious answer is that someone seems to know more about you and your daily activities than they should know. In this latter instance, they may be monitoring you online with spyware.

Many of us think of spyware as something used by hackers and crooks to steal our financial information. Well, it can also be used to spy on many aspects of your personal life. And one doesn’t have to be a hacker to use it. Dozens of companies sell spyware. In fact, one can buy it over the Internet right now for less than $20.

What can a cyberstalker do with spyware? They can track every click and keystroke you make on your computer. They can monitor your email and read what you write and to whom, and what you receive and from whom. For instance, if you write to a friend, “I’ll see you at the game at 7,” the stalker might show up at the game too. They can track your movement on the Internet as you surf or shop. They can even see what you shop for or buy.
Spyware and how to stop it
Most often, spyware will come to you in emails. If someone knows your email address, they can send spyware to your computer as an email attachment. That attachment is usually something that appears to be innocuous. For instance, if the stalker knows you like horses, they send you a photo of a horse, but embedded in the attachment is spyware. You click the photo and the spyware is installed on your computer without you knowing it.

Good Internet security software, such as Norton 360™ or Norton Internet Security™, can block, warn you, and remove spyware before it can be installed on your computer. If you don’t have Internet security software or it’s not turned on and up-to-date, there may already be spyware on your computer. In that case, it is best to purchase security software offline. Install it when your computer is not connected to the Internet, and scan for spyware before you reconnect to the Internet. If there is spyware the Internet security software will detect and remove it. If you buy the software online or install it when you’re online, the spyware may be able to detect either the online purchase or the installation and defeat it.
Mobile phones, GPS, and spyware
Cyberstalkers can also follow you or your kids through your mobile phones.

Many parents give their kids mobile phones with global positioning system (GPS) capability, so they will always know where their kids are. Unfortunately, there is mobile spyware that will enable a stalker to know where they are too, by monitoring the GPS location.

Mobile phone spyware, like the computer variety, can also monitor calls, text messages, and multimedia and Internet use. Some spyware can even turn on the camera in a mobile phone to see the user and/or their location. Virtually all of this mobile phone spyware comes from someone who knows your mobile phone number. It is sent to you in text or multimedia messages or via a wi-fi connection.

Your best protection against mobile phone spyware is good security software, such as Norton™ Smartphone security. It will detect, block, and remove spyware and other malware from your mobile phone.
Social Networking
One of the most popular online activities for teens and many adults is social networking on websites like MySpace and Facebook. If you or your kids or their friends have pages on these sites, there are a few things you should be careful of. Don’t put too much personal information (especially email address, phone number or your physical location) in your profile or on your page. If your friends have pages, make sure they don’t reveal any personal information about you or your whereabouts. The same warnings apply to instant messaging and chat rooms.
Who to turn to
If you know you’re being cyberstalked don’t be afraid to report it. Kids should tell their parents. Parents should report cyberstalking to a teacher or school administrator and, if it seems serious, the police. Adults being stalked should report it to the police. Many police departments have cybercrime units, and cyberstalking is a crime. If you or your children feel immediately threatened, call 911 first. You can and should also call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, and to report cyberstalking against children, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTip Line at 800-THE-LOST.
Be careful and have fun
When our kids are on the way out the door to school or play, we often tell them, as our parents told us, “be careful and have fun.” Well, the same applies to the Internet and the mobile phone. They’re great tools for learning, entertainment and communication, but one has to be careful. Be careful about to whom you give your personal information online, on the phone, or in person. Make sure your kids are careful too. Make sure you have the security software to help you stay protected. In other words, be careful and have fun.

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