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Cyber stalking

Cyber stalking is the repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone, for example by sending threatening emails.

Keep safe online with our advice below, or download our Cyberstalking Stay Safe Checklist.

Securing devices

Location services

Having location services always enabled on your device means you are broadcasting your location and this could be used to track your movements. Make sure to disable this service if not needed.

Review apps

Applications monitor and collect information about us, some use location services by default.  When installing apps your device will tell you what permissions it requires. Make sure you understand what information the app is collecting and what permissions you are giving it. Apps are becoming a popular way for criminals to steal our information and target us.

There are a number of “spying” apps available now, if one of these apps is installed on your phone it needs to be uninstalled. Make sure to check your device regularly for any apps you did not install. If in doubt consider a factory reset of the device (making sure to back up first).

Anti-virus

Anti-virus/anti-spyware should be used on all devices including mobile phones/tablets. Getting a virus on your device could make it unusable. If it happens to your mobile phone this could make communicating with friends/family or other service difficult.

Home devices

When securing devices a lot of people do not consider devices they have at home. Your home router is the starting point as this connects all your other devices on your home network.

Change the default password on your router. Most routers come with a pre-set admin password. This should be changed to something long and strong. If someone gets access to your router they can see, and potentially get access to, every other connected device you have at home. Routers also come with a pre-set Wi-Fi passcode or phrase. This also needs to be changed.

Remember routers and smart devices hold a lot of personal information about us, importantly they know when we are at home and when we are not!

All smart devices should be secured with strong passwords and where possible two factor authentication. Smart devices can be used to gain access into our homes and lives.

Securing online accounts

Passwords/PINs

Never tell people your account passwords/PINs. If you think there is a chance someone may know this information you should change them. Start with the most important accounts like banking, email and social media accounts.

Create strong, unique passwords

A long password is a strong password. Consider using three random words as this will make it long in length. Add in a number or symbol to increase complexity if you need to. Don’t use any links to your personal life as this makes it easier for someone to guess.

Use unique passwords for all accounts and store your passwords in a password manager. Storing them safely this way means you won’t have to remember them all, you only need to remember one master password to access your vault.

An email account can often be used to reset passwords for other accounts so make sure this is secured with a strong unique password and two factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication

Two factor authentication is a second layer of security on your accounts. It most commonly works by receiving a text message with a code to a mobile phone. The code is used while logging into the account on the mobile phone and then the phone becomes a trusted device. If anyone else tries to log into the account, let’s say they get hold of the password, they can’t get in without a code again sent to your phone. This is best way to secure an online account and prevent people getting in! This should be set up on all accounts that require a password.

Increase privacy

Updating privacy settings regularly on social media and online accounts means YOU control who has access to your personal information.

Unfortunately even if our privacy settings are “locked down” we can’t control what our friends or contacts do. This means there is a risk that people may be able to access our information through a friend or contact’s account if their privacy settings are not set up right!

It’s a good idea to review all your contacts and remove those who are not close friends and family. Talk to friends and family about privacy settings and explain the risks to them. Raising awareness of the risks encourages others to change their behaviour around online security.

Keeping the evidence

Save copies of all communication. Even though the immediate desire might be to delete the communication and try to forget about it, record-keeping is crucial. Take screenshots and record as much information as possible.

Make backups. You'll need electronic copies, the data that sits behind cyber communications is really important. It can provide the police with information about an offender such as times/dates/locations sometimes even what computer or device is being used.

You can download your information from the most popular social media platforms straight to your device, see the help pages on each platform which give instructions on how to do it.

Report it

If you are affected by cyber stalking:

  • Report the stalking to the police
  • Seek help and support from relevant organisations, for example the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or email advice@stalkinghelpline.org
  • Most social networking sites have a means of reporting such issues, so make sure you report it to them too!

Related Documents & Further Reading

03 Oct 19 10:38 PM

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