Stalking and cybersecurity

Jan 4, 2010 2:31pm


By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director
What does stalking have to with cybersecurity?

Quite a bit. 

Stalking impacts 3.4 million people annually and about 25% of victims report some use of technology, including spyware, email, identity theft, and instant messenger. (Stalking Victimization in the United States, The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics)  If stalkers are compromising systems to track their victims then they could also put larger networks at risk.  For example, if a stalker was able to get spyware or a keystroke logger onto a victim’s home computer that was also used to access corporate networks this could lead to data loss or worse. 

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. Since 2004, the National Center for Victims of Crime (www.ncvc.org) has promoted National Stalking Awareness Month to increase awareness of the crime of stalking, and encourage victims to seek help, and spur the development of coordinated community responses to address the crime.

How can you help?

  • Be supportive of victims. If someone you know tells you they are being stalked, believe them.
  • Caution victims about the risks of technology and how it can be used to track and monitor activities.
  • Provide technical support such as scanning computers for malicious software, ensuring all computer security software is up to date and firewalls are turned on.
  • Offer suggestions of other ways someone can be safer online such as being cautious of sharing personal information, using computers at libraries or other locations away from home and work to avoid computers that may be compromised.
  • Help victims make sure home wireless networks are secure with strong passwords.
  • Remind victims to regularly change passwords on for online accounts and make them long and complex and not easily guessed by someone who knows the victim.
  • Encourage extreme caution in opening attachments and links as these are often the way spyware is delivered.
  • Most importantly, encourage victims to get help from law enforcement and victim advocates. Stalking is dangerous and can escalate over time. It is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The helpline at the National Center for Victims of Crime (1-800-FYI-CALL) is an excellent resource to connect people with local services.

Learn more about stalking and the use of technology to stalk at the National Center for Victims of Crime and National Network to End Domestic Violence’s Safety Net Project.

SSO (stay safe online),

Michael