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Cyberstalking dangers abound

Biswajit.HD

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Intimate details, personal preferences, friend circles: cyber stalkers know all about the lives of their victims. Some of them say that love is the reason behind the stalking, while for some others, it is hate. But one factor is common to all cases: they find their victims via the Internet.

In one case for instance, a young American kept a check on the webcam of his female victim. He used LogMeIn and an illegal webcam spying application to get an access to the victim’s laptop, and took over 20,000 photos using its integrated webcam—including some of the lady naked in her apartment. The photos were uploaded directly to a European server. The police could not determine whether the photos had been distributed or sold.

Stalkers can find information about potential victims easily on the web because many people reveal intimate details and personal interests on social network platforms such as Orkut and Facebook, which predators can exploit at will. This is called Social Phishing. Social networking profiles make a lot of information accessible to everyone. These, for instance, include private details of someone’s life, personal interests and photos, contacts, addresses, telephone numbers, and so on. “Youngsters often treat their data thoughtlessly and carelessly”, is the criticism by Berlin-based lawyer Ulrich Schulte am Hülse.


Things can get ugly

Real harassment begins once the culprits collect sufficient information. They might start by filling their victims’ inboxes with hundreds of emails—some victims have also reported so-called “spam bombs”. Another way to drive a target mad, as described by psychologists, is to edit the victim’s photos or morph them completely, often presenting the victim in extremely embarrassing situations. The stalkers then publish these photos online to disparaging the victims and put psychlogical pressure on them. Cyber stalking also includes lies about the victims. Details about their s#x lives, financial situations, and careers are all exploited by predators to exert power and control over their victims. In many such cases, the culprits act in an extremely skilful manner and use only foreign IP addresses which are difficult or even impossible to trace. Over 11,400 cases of stalking were reported in 2007 all over Germany.

In some cases, the stalkers even use stolen information to act on behalf of the victim! Some stalkers, for instance, participate in eBay auctions under their victims’ names, or purchase and dispatch goods through Amazon. In the worst cases, victims are also threatened with physical and sexual advances, building up trauma that many victims can never get rid of. They become distant and withdrawn, leading to complete isolation. Victims often experience traumatic mental disturbances. One case of online harassment in South Korea had a dramatic end: the famous actress Choi Jin-sil committed suicide after a smear campaign against her ran on the Internet. In other countries as well, cyber stalkers have made their victims commit suicide. The terrifying case in South Korea has prompted people to say that policemen should keep things in order on the Internet and censor offensive and threatening entries on any website.


Limited options

Stalking victims can take action against false allegations on the Internet. “It becomes a major problem, if this happens on websites outside the victim’s country”, explains Schulte am Hülse. “It is very difficult to get the operators of websites like Rotten Neighbor (www.rottenneighbor.com) to delete their content. However, if you know the person who has uploaded photos or negative comments, you should take action against him or her immediately”. A legal notice often works in such cases. Many people use peer rating websites like Rotten Neighbor to brand people with a negative reputation, whether it is genuine or done only to harass them. A landmark posted on Google Maps can also be used to embarrass people, and they might not find out about it for months or years. In the past few years, new anti-stalking laws have come into effect in several countries around the world. Culprits can be imprisoned but a huge number of cases are dismissed as it is difficult to prove that stalking has really occured. “A legal definition of cyber stalking is not yet available”, says Ulrich Schulte am Hülse.

You have to defend yourself outside of the courts as well. For instance, if photos posted online violate your right to privacy, you can take action. Portals like ReputationDefender (www.reputationdefender.com) can also help if you want to get rid of undesirable entries about you on the Internet; these websites attempt to trace those responsible for negative entries on other social sites and persuade them to delete the entries. Such platforms stop short of offering legal services though.

source : Chip Magazine
 
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