Cyberstalking Is On The Rise

With so many people sheltered in place, thanks to Covid-19, people with nothing to do are doing more cyberstalking. I’ll tell you more about that, the traditional and the new ways cyberstalking is happening and what you can do about it. Stay tuned.


Hi, I’m Jim Stroud and this is my podcast.

Do you know what cyberstalking is? You probably do but just in case you do not, I will define it this way. Cyberstalking is using online technology to embarrass, threaten, or harass someone. And with so many people sheltered in place, thanks to Covid-19, people with nothing to do are doing more cyberstalking. I’ll tell you more about that, the traditional and the new ways cyberstalking is happening and what you can do about it. Stay tuned.

I stumbled across an interesting article from the UK based website – The Telegraph. Essentially, the articles citied how charities were reporting that cyberstalking was on the rise during the Covid-19 lockdown, when more people were online and vulnerable to hacking. Listen to this quote.

Stalkers are exploiting social media and new apps like House party to record a 26 per cent increase in harassment of victims during lockdown, say charities and police.

They warn that the proportion of victims being targeted online has risen to 70 per cent as their stalkers exploit security flaws in the apps either to directly pursue them or install tracking or surveillance devices onto their phones.

Veritas Justice, a Sussex-based charity supporting victims of stalking, said that the increasing time that people were spending online cooped up in lockdown had helped fuel the 26 per cent rise in requests for help or new callers in the past six weeks.

Claudia Miles, co-director of Veritas Justice, said House party, a social conferencing app popularised by lockdown, had been cited by victims, as had a new feature on Snapchat for  friends of friends to join a group as well as even games consoles….

Another UK website, The Guardian, reported on the same trend too. Here is a quote from one of their articles.

Stalking support services and police forces have recorded a surge in perpetrators turning to online tactics to harass their victims during the coronavirus lockdown. Paladin, a national stalking advocacy service, and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the stalking helpline, reported a surge in cyberstalking involving social media, messaging apps and emails in the first four weeks of the lockdown.

Both of the quotes were from articles posted in the first week of May 2020. If you were to do a keyword search on cyberstalking on Google News or DuckDuckGo, my favorite search engine, you will see what I am looking at now; a whole lot of drama.

Cyberstalking is not on the decline by any means, in fact some of the methods have gone mainstream. Have you heard of the MTV show – Catfishing? {Play part of the clip} Catfishing occurs on social media sites when online stalkers create fake user profiles and approach their victims as a friend of a friend or expressing romantic interest. To look more like a real person, cyberstalkers sometimes copy the profiles of existing users, impersonating their identities.

Now is that the only way people tend to cyberstalk?  Oh, no. There are methods a plenty. Here are some quotes from NordVPN detailing various methods.

Some of the ways cyberstalkers track their victims are:

Monitoring location check-ins on social media

If you’re adding location check-ins to your Facebook and Instagram posts, you’re making it super easy for a cyber stalker to track you by simply scrolling through your social media profiles. When combined together, location-tagged posts can indicate your behavior patterns quite accurately.

Visiting you virtually via Google Maps Street View

If a cyberstalker discovers their victim’s home address, all they have to do is open Google Maps and type it in. By using Street View, they can see exactly how your home looks without even stepping into your neighborhood and drawing attention. Cyberstalkers can also virtually research your environment, surrounding houses, cameras, and alleys, to get a sense about the neighbors.

Hijacking your webcam

Hijacking a computer’s webcam is one of the creepiest methods cyberstalkers use to invade their victims’ privacy. Creepers would try to trick you into downloading and installing a malware-infected file that would grant them access to your webcam.

Installing stalkerware

Another increasingly popular and menacing way perpetrators keep tabs on their victims is by using stalkerware. This is any type of legitimate software or spyware that can be used to monitor someone’s activities through their device. It can track your location, make audio recordings, and enable access to your texts and browsing history.

Looking at geotags to track your location

Internet stalkers love geotags – and for a good reason. Every digital picture you take may contain geotags, which are pieces of metadata revealing where and when the photo was taken.

Now these tactics for cyberstalking are probably familiar to you. Perhaps you have seen them on TV or in a movie or been the unfortunate recipient of them. Well, if these were not bad enough, there are new ways cyberstalkers are tracking their victims. I’ll share those with you, after this.

The Weinberger Divorce and Family Law Group posted an article recently called – 4 New Ways Abusers Are Cyberstalking In 2020 — And What You Can Do To Protect Yourself. I will link to it from my website I highly recommend reading the full article. For now, a few quotes.

New Cyberstalking Tool: Your Car

Everything these days is connected to some kind of smartphone app, including many newer model cars that offer owners the opportunity to check on their vehicle any time via a PC, smartphone, or tablet. For example, if you buy a new Acura, the manufacturer touts that “your vehicle’s vital statistics are easily accessed, GPS tracking and ‘find my Acura’ are available, and diagnostics can be run on command, all from your fingertips via a series of apps.” Most car manufacturers, including Buick and General Motors, BMW, Honda, Cadillac, Chrysler, Volvo, Mercedes and Land Rover offer similar apps.

How you can protect yourself:  If you know or strongly suspect that your car is connected to an app that is being used abusively as a tool of stalking, report this activity to the police. You can make a report to the police and they may be able to help you obtain app store records to see if any such app was ever placed on the abuser’s phone and the amount of use the app has had. As part of any restraining order issued, deleting any such app may be part of the order.

Upwards of 30% of stalking cases involve GPS tracking. If you have an older car, ask a skilled mechanic to check your car over for small GPS trackers that can be affixed almost anywhere on a car.

New Cyberstalking Tool: Smart Gadgets

High tech doorbells, garage door openers, thermostats, streaming music devices, fitness trackers, refrigerators, and even internet-enabled toys — any device or gadget that can be operated remotely through apps can be used as a tool of surveillance, stalking and harassment.

How to protect yourself: Most gadgets can be disabled through reset buttons and/or changing a home’s Wi-Fi password. Before you bring a new smart gadget into your home, read up on cyber security and what you need to do to keep your gadget safe from interference. Save the box and information booklet in case you need any serial numbers and can refer to the instruction manual to correctly program the gadget for extra security.

And this next tip is specific for people in a divorce situation…

New Cyberstalking Tool: Smartphones Given to Kids

Your ex has been combative with you over paying child support, which is why you are surprised to find out that your child has been given a shiny new iPhone. Your ex says the smartphone is a way to more easily “stay in touch” with your child’s everyday life. This could be the truth, or the smartphone may be a “hiding in plain sight” tracking tool.

Don’t ignore red flags. If there is a tracking app or spyware on the phone, the phone could spike really high data usage, as it’s fairly common for such apps to use GPS and roaming data to monitor the phone’s location and ping back to the app. Does the phone’s battery run down a lot quicker than it should, and stay warm even when idle? Does the phone screen remain lit when you try to turn the screen off, or light up when you’re not doing anything? Do other apps on the phone run slower than expected? Are unfamiliar applications running in the background? Does it take forever to shut down? Are you running into ex more unexpectedly than usual when you are out with your child? All of these could be warning signs that your child’s new phone is actually a tracking device.

How to protect yourself:  As a quick fix, turn the phone’s cell data off when your child is not using it; this will disable most apps on the phone. When in doubt, you can also simply give the smartphone back and provide alternate means of communication, such as a set time to Skype using your computer. Or you can provide a “dumb phone” that only has the most basic phone and text functions.

That article I quoted has even more tips like that. I’m going to link to it and add even more resources on my blog concerning this issue because there is a lot more to be said. In the interim, while you are doing all you can to protect yourself from the Covid-19  Coronavirus, don’t forget there are other security measures you should be considering.


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