Cyberstalking is the use of technology to harass or stalk an individual, organization or a company. It may involve falsely accusing someone, damaging someone’s reputation, and character assassination. It may also include monitoring someone remotely, identity theft, threats, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to humiliate, bully, or torment someone. Cyber-stalking is stimulated by a desire to intimidate and show authority to a victim. Through the introduction of modern technology, computers allow criminals to commit crimes that they can easily get away with. Introduction of new technology automatically leads to effects on culture and on forms of abnormal behavior that will naturally arise in order to exploit new opportunities. Cyberstalking encompasses a wide range of new behaviors that are not associated with offline stalking. Cyberstalking can be associated with the activities of pedophiles and has been seen to include intimidation to achieve a variety of ends. One of the goals of Cyber-Stalking is to get a ransom or ruin one’s reputation by cyberstalking them by hacking into a victim’s personal device and using their information that is sensitive to them for blackmailing them. Cybercrimes are impacting the society immensely and the aftermath of this is horrendous, but there is still a lot that can be done to resist these crimes and prevent them from influencing the society.
One form of online harassment includes the sending of unwanted e-mails which are abusive or obscene from one person to another. It may involve electronic vandalism, in the form of spamming the victim with a ton of emails. One victim of cyber-stalking, Cynthia Armistead, received thousands of offensive telephone calls after her stalker posted a fraudulent advertisement on a discussion group offering her services as a prostitute and posting her home address and telephone number. In another case, a woman who complained about a literacy agency online found that her home address and telephone number were posted on a porn website. If the stalkers know personal details, such as their phone number and address, of the victim, stalking them becomes a lot easier for them. In the case of Cynthia Armistead, threatening calls followed the emails she was getting (Ellison, 2009). In these cases, law enforcement agencies could have been contacted and appropriate action could have been taken to take the personal information of these individuals offline and help protect their privacy and give them protection against such crimes.
Stalkers have different motives in mind when they stalk someone. Some do it for sexual harassment, while others do it for revenge or fixation of love. This usually happens when a partner ends a relationship, but the other one does not mentally accepts it. In such cases, it is not hard for the stalker to get a hold of the victim’s personal information. In one case, a Pennsylvania State Trooper was recently arrested for posting five nude photographs of his former wife on a bondage and sadomasochistic website apparently in order to seek revenge for a failed marriage. According to Christine Pittaro (2007), the Crime Victim / Witness Advocate for the District Attorney’s Office of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Heller had worked as a trooper for approximately 14 years – up until the date of his arrest. In addition to creating a profile in his wife’s name and posting the nude photographs, Heller also posted his wife’s occupation as a schoolteacher and date of birth on the bondage website (Pittaro, 2007). A forensic examination of Heller’s laptop computer revealed that the laptop had been used to post five of the eighteen nude photographs of his ex-wife that were taken when the two were initially married (Iannace, 2007). The forensic examination, which was performed by State Trooper Paul Iannace, determined that Heller, posing as his ex-wife, posted explicit messages on the website-soliciting viewers to contact her to engage in violent sexual acts (2007). This particular cyberstalking offense was unearthed after one of the website’s visitors decided to contact Heller’s ex-wife at her place of employment (Iannace, 2007). Heller subsequently pleaded guilty to harassment for placing the images on the bondage site and agreed to quit the Pennsylvania State Police in light of the criminal charges lodged against him (Iannace, 2007). According to Assistant District Attorney Patricia Broscious of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, such cases of cyberstalking are difficult to prosecute based on the manner in which many of the statutes are currently written (Iannace, 2007). This is just one example of law enforcement agencies protecting the citizens against cyber crimes and is a warning for all the people who might be thinking of committing a similar crime that if they do such a thing, there would be serious consequences for it.
According to the Law Enforcement Cyber Center, Law enforcement agencies frequently provide outreach and training to expand public awareness and crime prevention to citizens throughout their communities. In an effort to support and advance police/community interaction addressing cybercrime and victimization, the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office), U.S. Department of Justice, have developed a series of training modules to identify the most common types of Internet and computer-related scams, and instructional tools to help people avoid being victimized by these scams. The mission of this program is to provide free resources to educate members of the public about the Internet and computer-related scams, to provide them with tools, information, and resources to protect themselves and to take action if they are victimized. This training also informs the general public to refrain from posting too much of their personal information online as it makes it a lot easier for the stalkers to get the victim’s information as it is literally being fed to them (2011).
It is hard to combat cyber-crimes such as these because cyberstalkers have good computer skills and it is hard to trace them, but it is not impossible. There are many laws in place to deal with cyber-crimes. Many people do not consider Cyber Stalking as a real crime, but in reality, it is a crime and there are laws to prevent it. Under 18 U.S.C. 875(c), it is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, to transmit any communication in interstate or foreign commerce containing a threat to injure the person of another. Section 875(c) applies to any communication actually transmitted in interstate or foreign commerce – thus it includes threats transmitted in interstate or foreign commerce via the telephone, e-mail, beepers, or the Internet. Certain forms of cyberstalking also may be prosecuted under 47 U.S.C. 223. One provision of this statute makes it a federal crime, punishable by up to two years in prison, to use a telephone or telecommunications device to annoy, abuse, harass or threaten any person at the called number.
Cyber-stalking can have a very deep effect on a victim’s life. It can scar them emotionally forever and some may even take their own lives in order to escape this form of harassment. There are some measures that can be taken by the victims of cyber-stalking in order to minimize it. Some things that can help protect a person from being a victim of cyber-stalking is to never use one’s real name or suggestive name online. When online, only type things you would actually say to someone face-to-face. Log off immediately if you experience contact from someone that is hostile, rude or inappropriate. Save all communications from the stalker as evidence. Report the incident to your ISP, law enforcement agency, school administration. People should also keep their web-cams covered at all times. Hackers can turn off the light that indicates that the camera is recording and can secretly watch one without them suspecting anything at all. Stalkers can then use that footage or any important information they find against the victim and force them into doing things against their will (West, 2016). Use good, updated security software to prevent someone from getting spyware onto your computer via a phishing attack or an infected Web page. Check the app store for your mobile devices to see what security software is available or visit an Antivirus page to see what programs are available for your device’s platform. Security software could allow you to detect spyware on your device and decrease your chances of being stalked (Norton).
The rapid pace at which technology is advancing, as well as, the inexpensive cost of technologies make it easier for a person to track and stalk a victim. Studies based on victim experiences need to be explored in depth so that the appropriate laws are written to protect victims of cyberstalking. A collaborative effort from victims, law enforcement, and private and public sectors is needed in order to combat cyberstalking and develop an effective response to the problem. Both the government and people should work hand in hand to catch the criminals. People who have been the victim of cyber crimes should come forward and file a complaint against the crime. The government should also employee officers with very high intelligent quotient and knowledge about all the cyber crimes. This will help to catch the criminals very easily and all the criminals must be given hard punishments which can a lesson for millions of other cybercriminals. Awareness of the persons using the internet will definitely help to curb the cyber crimes and once, all the people are aware of the cybercrime, no criminal would ever think to commit the cybercrime. In addition to that, every person should refrain from putting too much important and personal information about themselves online so that it is harder for cyber-stalkers to find out more information about them and harass them. Children should not give their identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, phone number in a chat room. They should also be advised not to give their photographs to anyone, not to respond to the messages which are obscene, threatening or suggestive. They should remember that people online might not be who they seem. Parents should use content filtering software on their computers so that their child is protected from pornography, gambling drugs, and alcohol. The software can also be installed to establish time records i.e. blocking usage after a particular time. Parents should also visit the sites visited by their children.
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