New Survey: One in Five Americans Affected by Online Stalking or Aggressive Outreach Incidents
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ – One in five (19%) Americans have come in contact with someone online who made them feel uncomfortable through stalking, persistent emails, and other aggressive outreach attempts, according to new data released today by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee in time for Stalking Awareness Month this January. The study, conducted by Zogby International, also revealed that two-fifths (39%) of those victims reported the incident while 61% remained silent.
January is National Stalking Awareness Month, a time to focus on a crime that affects 3.4 million victims a year. This year’s theme, “Stalking: Know It. Name It. Stop It.” challenges the nation to fight this dangerous crime by learning more about it. The Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime states that one in four victims report that the stalker uses a variety of technologies, such as computers, global positioning system (GPS) devices, or hidden cameras, to track the victim’s daily activities.
Stalking is a crime in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but it is often difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear. Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits.
“The Internet is an amazing tool for sharing and connecting with people. Unfortunately, there are some people who will use it to track, harass or make unwanted contact. Stalking can be dangerous and should be taken seriously,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “We encourage anyone who believes they are being victimized online to report the crime and seek help, if needed, from law enforcement or a victim service provider.”
“Cyber criminals are more resourceful than ever. This data supports an ever-increasing need for online users to be vigilant in their actions each day,” said John Thode, executive vice president, consumer, mobile and small business, McAfee. “Americans must be educated to recognize the signs of stalking and other forms of cyber crime as well as taking action to protect ourselves, our youth, and our digital infrastructure from victimization.”
The below tips from McAfee can help consumers avoid stalking incidents online:
1) Cleanup your online profiles – Don’t include your address or phone number in an online profile. If you must use a professional networking site such as LinkedIn for work, include your company’s corporate address instead of your actual office to prevent someone from knowing where you work. Think about each piece of information you include on your profile and whether it would be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands.
2) Lockdown your privacy settings – If you are a social networking user, make sure to set all of your privacy settings to “private” or “friends only” to keep people outside of your network from accessing your information. It’s also important to regularly check the settings to make sure there haven’t been any changes that leave your data exposed.
3) Be careful whom you connect with – When using social networking sites, only connect with people who you know in real life. A stranger who tries to “friend” you could become trouble later on. Also, pay attention to the people your friends are connected with to prevent your information from being shared with someone suspicious.
4) Search yourself to see what’s out there about you – You might be surprised at what you find when you search for yourself. Old website profiles, online forum posts, and pictures of you posted by other people could all be unearthed in a quick search. If you find information about yourself that you want removed, contact the website or person hosting the content.
5) Don’t use an email address that is easy to identify – Stay under the radar by selecting online handles that don’t include your name, date of birth, or other details about you that a stalker might easily recognize. Once you have an anonymous address, guard it as you would your credit card or Social Security number.
6) If you have a personal website, don’t post your email address – These days many of us have blogs and personal websites, but it’s a bad idea to post your email address. Instead, use a contact form so that people can reach you without having your personal address.
7) Be careful when posting photos online – You never know where photos can end up when you post them online. Someone could find them in an image search, post them to a website or downloaded them to their computer. And if the photo contains information about where you live or work, you could wind up giving a stalker all the information they need to locate and harass you.
8) Create strong passwords – Make it difficult for someone to guess your passwords by using a mix of letters, numbers and characters and make sure that they don’t spell anything. Passwords that include the name of your pet or some other personal detail could easily be guessed, allowing an attacker to gain access your account. The same goes for security question answers. Choose hard-to-guess answers to prevent someone from using the password retriever function to obtain your password.
9) Avoid using location-based services – “Checking-in” to restaurants and other locations can be fun, but it can also be dangerous if someone is stalking you. If you must use location-based services, choose a unique username or alias that is not associated with any of your other accounts to make it more difficult for people to identify you.
10) Delete old posts or entries – If you have a stalker, they will scour the Internet for any tidbit of news about you so it’s a good idea to delete any old forum posts, Tweets or status messages that include any personal details or information that could allow them to find you both online and off.
In addition to stalking-related crime, NCSA and McAfee also researched general Internet crimes. The research found that one in five Americans (18%) have been victimized through experiences like identity theft, data theft, stalking, bullying or auction fraud and 38% of Americans surveyed reported knowing someone who had been victim to Internet crime.
Of those who were the victim of an Internet crime including online contact that made him/her feel uncomfortable, the NCSA/McAfee survey found that 27% didn’t report the incident because they didn’t feel it was severe enough, but nearly three-fifths (58%) did report the crimes.
When asked if local law enforcement was equipped to handle reports and investigate crimes committed over the Internet, two thirds (65%) of Americans said their local police department’s capabilities in dealing with such crimes are not sufficient enough.
Where to Get Help
If you or someone you know has been affected by a digital crime or stalking or if you want to learn how to prevent becoming a victim of cyber crime, the following organizations can help:
- National Center for Victims of Crime:
- 1-800-211-7996 (TTY)
- National Network to End Domestic Violence: www.nnedv.org
- Department of Justice: www.ovw.usdoj.gov/aboutstalking.htm
NCSA also offers resources to keep the messages of online safety and security resonating with digital citizens throughout the year with the “STOP. THINK. CONNECT.” campaign, designed to raise awareness about how to stay safer and more secure online. More information and resources to educate about online safety can be found at www.stopthinkconnect.org.
NCSA encourages all audiences – teachers, employers, families, consumers, and more – to visit www.staysafeonline.org for a variety of tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime. In addition, the Stalking Awareness Month Website lists an abundance of tools and information about how to get involved, events, and additional resources to help organizations and individuals participate in the public awareness campaign. The resources are available at: www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org and www.ovw.usdoj.gov.
About The National Cyber Security Alliance
The National Cyber Security Alliance is a non-profit organization. Through collaboration with the government, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors, the mission of the NCSA is to empower a digital citizenry to use the Internet securely and safely protecting themselves and the technology they use and the digital assets we all share. NCSA works to create a culture of cyber security and safety through education and awareness activities. NCSA board members include: ADP, AT&T, Bank of America, Cisco Systems, EMC Corporation, ESET, Facebook, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Google, Intel, Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, McAfee, Microsoft, PayPal, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Symantec, Verizon and Visa. Visit http://www.staysafeonline.org for more information and join us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/staysafeonline.
McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC), is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company. McAfee delivers proactive and proven solutions and services that help secure systems, networks, and mobile devices around the world, allowing users to safely connect to the Internet, browse and shop the Web more securely. Backed by its unrivaled Global Threat Intelligence, McAfee creates innovative products that empower home users, businesses, the public sector and service providers by enabling them to prove compliance with regulations, protect data, prevent disruptions, identify vulnerabilities, and continuously monitor and improve their security. McAfee is relentlessly focused on constantly finding new ways to keep our customers safe. http://www.mcafee.com
About STOP. THINK. CONNECT.
The campaign was developed by the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Messaging Convention, a public-private partnership established in 2009 and led by The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) and National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to develop and support a national cybersecurity awareness campaign. In October 2010 the White House, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Messaging Convention launched the campaign. The Department of Homeland Security provides the Federal Government’s leadership for the campaign. Industry, government, non-profits and education institutions participate in STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Learn how to get involved with the Stop. Think. Connect. Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/STOPTHINKCONNECT and the campaign website at www.stopthinkconnect.org.
SOURCE National Cyber Security Alliance