Cyberstalking refers to the use of technology to stalk someone. Cyberstalking is repetitive, menacing pursuit, following, harassment or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community that occurs online. Similar to stalking that occurs in person, cyberstalking evokes fear in the victim.
Cyberstalking behaviors may include, but are not limited to:
Email forgery - sending false or damaging email from the victim - usually to people they know
Social networking sites are great ways to share the latest in your life with friends and family members. However, social networking sites can also provide stalkers with a wealth of information about you, your interests and your whereabouts. Here are a few ways to keep yourself safe on both social networking sites and in cyberspace:
Keep your primary email address private. Use a separate email account for online activity. For example, you may use your Gmail account for friends and family and a Hotmail account for online activities. Keeping separate email accounts lessens the chances that someone will be able to hack into your account and gain access to private information.
Change your passwords frequently. Do not use your pet's name, birthday or birth year, nickname or other commonly known information as a password. Be sure to include upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols in the password. Lastly, use different passwords for each account. While this may be troublesome to remember at first, it greatly decreases the chances that someone will be able to break into your account.
Block or ignore unwanted users. If you are engaged in an online chat and find a situation escalating, use the ignore and/or block feature that is available. Don't respond to users who "flame" you or attempt to engage you in an argument. Confronting the person typically results in a continued attack of your character. Cut your losses and log off.
Google yourself. A quick way to learn about your online reputation is to enter your name in search engines such as Google, Bing and Dogpile.
Protect your pictures. Be mindful of the pictures that you post on social networking sites. When choosing to post a picture, remember that the audience may not only include your friends, but family members, professors and potential employers. Also, anyone who can view your picture can copy it and distribute it without your permission. Unless you utilize available privacy settings, people can see your pictures on Fokti and Flickr fairly easily.
Use privacy settings. Social networking sites offer a multitude of ways to keep your information private. The default setting on most social networking sites is the least restrictive privacy setting. For example, the default privacy setting for pictures is on Facebook "everyone", meaning that anybody on Facebook who can access your profile, including friends of friends, can see your pictures.
Be mindful of the personal information you post. Many social networking sites invite you to create a profile that includes your interests, hobbies, address and other information. When creating a profile, be careful not to include information about your location or other information that would lead a stalker to you.
Friend only people you know. This tip may seem obvious but stalkers will often send a friend request pretending to know you from a class or club to gain access to your profile and learn more about you.
Use a genderless screen name in chat rooms and message boards. Do not use your first or last names as a screen name. Avoid screen names that divulge your location (i.e. -"salisburyurocks!" or personal information ("bgreer1991"). Safer screen names are those that do not give away any personal information or even your gender. Some stalkers are looking specifically for men or specifically for women to harass.
Save all communication if you are being harassed by someone online and contact Campus Police (410.543.6222) or the Counseling Center (410.543.6070).