Top Tips to Fight Cyber Harassment

by Melissa Clark

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Scottish Business Resilience CentreCyber experts are urging people to follow a 10-point action plan to help prevent them falling victim to stalkers or criminals who prey on the Internet.

The top tips have been oultined by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) to educate people about the dangers of so-called cyber harassment

The rapid rise in the use of social media and other online sites has also resulted in an alarming growth of cyber-harassment, but experts at the SBRC believe there are some very easy steps to minimise the risks to individuals.

One of the simplest tips outlined is limiting the amount of photos posted on sites such as facebook and Instagram. But less obvious steps to follow include using a different email address for registering on social media and removing location specific infromation from images

Googling yourself is suggested as a good way of checking the various information that is available online about you and monitoring what friends and family post about you is also recommended.

The anonymous nature of the Internet makes people behave in a way that they otherwise would not and this has lead to an increasing number of shock cyber stalking cases in recent years, including celebrities and high profile public figures.

The SBRC say that in extreme cases, cyber stalking is perpetrated by individuals who desire to control their victim by locating them, watching them and emotionally hounding them until they break. Sadly for some people it becomes a cat and mouse game.

In many cases, the victim knows the perpetrator and SBRC Director Mandy Haeburn-Little argues that this provides more reason for individuals to protect themselves online.

She said: “Cyber stalking has become a serious problem as stalkers have a greater variety of ways to locate and track their victims. It’s a very scary thing to think that someone else could be looking at your life. Even if they are doing it thinking it is a joke, it’s a real invasion of you and your personal information.

“This growing problem causes great harm to both the victim and society as a whole as the issue continues to grow.

“Just this week we have seen another example of a major trading website where customer data has clearly been breached. We all protect ourselves in the real world and due to the increased use of social media networks, there is an essential need to protect ourselves online too.

“We offer a full range of highly subsidised services from providing advice on how secure a business is through to a one to one confidential service which shows you on a personal level where you could be vulnerable on line.”

“We are hoping to make people aware of the risks and issues of online activity, letting them know that help is available if they find themselves becoming a victim.”

The SBRC was set up with the objective of creating a secure Scotland for business to flourish, encompassing everything from cyber security to all aspects of premises and employee safety.

The group wants to convey the message that victims of cyber stalking do not have to suffer in silence after it was revealed that 77% of stalking victims wait until around 100 incidents have happened before they report it.

Cyber Stalking is a serious form of online harassment, which was described by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 as ‘causing alarm or distress’ and ‘putting people in fear of violence’.

The SBRC list of top ten tips to help prevent them from becoming a victim of cyber stalking is: –

  1. Limit what you share online: This means everything: web sites, chat rooms, emails and of course social networking sites. It’s very easy to glean information from these sources about where you live, where you go and your friends and family.
  1. Create a separate email account for registering on social networking sites:  This will not only help you avoid but your personal email won´t be revealed if the online service doesn’t have a good privacy practice.
  1. Do not provide any more information than you have to when registering online.  If data fields are not required* for the service – don’t complete them.  Only fill out the minimum to obtain the service.
  1. Do not post photos that clearly identify you.  Use profile or distant shots that don’t show your face close up or are easily recognisable.
  1. Remove geo-location stamps from your photos before posting online: These days cameras and mobile phones register the exact location where the picture and put the coordinates in the image.  So when you post them you are also posting the place where the photo was taken.  Instructions to remove this information should be on phone or camera.
  1. Consider using a name that is not your real name.  Use a nickname as your email name, screen name or user ID.  And do not use your birthday as the digits in your email name or password.  Instead, create a user name that is gender neutral.
  1. Regularly change your passwords.  Especially if you are breaking up with an intimate partner.  Reset every single password on all of your accounts, from email and social networking accounts to bank accounts, to something your ex doesn’t know and couldn’t guess.
  1. Read and keep on top of changing privacy settings:  Social media web sites change their privacy policies all the time, so it is a good idea to check your account privacy settings to make sure you are sharing the information you want to share with people you trust and not the general internet public.
  1. Monitor information that family and friends post about you. Let them know your concerns about privacy and help them learn better privacy settings.
  2.  Google yourself Do an internet search of your name regularly and monitor where you appear online. If you find unauthorised information about yourself online, contact the web site moderator to request its removal.

 

For more information about tackling cyber stalking, visit www.sbrc.co.uk.

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