Opinion Op Ed 17 Feb 2020 Cyber-stalking: Get ...

Cyber-stalking: Get safe online

Published Feb 17, 2020, 1:32 am IST
Updated Feb 17, 2020, 1:32 am IST
In July 2015, the cyber cell of the Mumbai Police obtained the first-ever conviction in the country under the Information Technology Act 2000.
 Under Indian law, a cyberstalker can be booked under Section 509 of the IPC for outraging the modesty of a woman, S499 IPC, and also under the 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
  Under Indian law, a cyberstalker can be booked under Section 509 of the IPC for outraging the modesty of a woman, S499 IPC, and also under the 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The Hrithik Roshan-Kangana Ranaut episode turned cyberstalking into a widely discussed national topic. In 2016, Hrithik filed a lawsuit against his Krrish 3 co-star Kangana Ranaut, charging her of cyberstalking and harassment. Refuting the charges, Ranaut filed a countersuit against Roshan, contending that his lawsuit was an endeavour to hush up their affair. Owing to an absence of proof, the Mumbai Police closed the case later that year.

A lot of people think stalking is something that happens to celebrities, but the reality is that it can happen to anyone. For instance, a young woman employee with an embassy in New Delhi received a string of emails from a stranger ordering her to either pose in the nude for him or pay him Rs 1 lakh to prevent her morphed pictures from being displayed in the pornographic sites, along with her telephone number and address. He further threatened her that he would also exhibit her photographs in her neighbourhood in southwest Delhi.


Initially, she ignored his emails, but soon she began receiving letters through the post, reiterating the same threat. Shortly, the stalker started mailing the woman her photographs. The woman contended that the photos were the same as those she had saved in her mail folder. Police investigation disclosed that the accused had hacked her email password and had gained access to her folder to extract her pictures.

In another case that got reported last year in Hyderabad, a 23-year-old man was arrested for cyberstalking and sexually taunting his former Plus 2 classmate on social media. It turned out that the boy had professed love to the girl and she had spurned his proposal.

Dejected over the rejection, the man began bombarding her inbox with obscene messages on Whatsapp. Unable to bear the harassment, the girl decided to block him. Following which the man designed a fake Facebook page of the girl, and began posting morphed photos of her with sex soliciting comments.

 Use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, a group, or an organisation is generally deemed as cyberstalking. Most cyberstalkers know their victims well, and most cyberstalking cases involve someone seeking to get the attention of a former or would-be partner. It can have many intentions including vengeance, resentment or anger, jealousy, control or even lust or love.

Cyberstalking may also encompass monitoring, identity theft, threats, vandalism, solicitation for sex, or collecting information to threaten or harass the victims. It is often accompanied by realtime or offline stalking. Catfishing is one mode of online stalking. "Catfishers" pose as somebody else, using social media sites to create an identity by using pseudo names, photos, and locations and reach the intended victim as a romantic partner or a mutual friend. Catfishing may also be employed for monetary gain, to cyberbully a victim, or to cause reputational harm or humiliation to a victim. Some cyberstalkers hijack the webcam of the victims by conning them into downloading and installing files that enable them to access the webcam on a computer or laptop.

The development of new technology and unusual ways to stalk victims has exponentially spawned cyberstalking. Spouses are using GPS and GPS based Apps to track their partner's activities.

 Even police are not being spared, as criminals are finding them out to intimidate them into dropping or withdrawing a case. Studies have divulged that cyberbullying results in higher levels of anxiety and depression for victims than regular bullying.

Cyberstalkers operate online by acquiring knowledge about their prey by getting in touch with or engaging with the victim's friends, family or work colleagues and procure personal information. They might also advertise for information on the Internet, or hire a private detective. Many cyber-tormentors incite others to torture the victim by striving to involve third parties in the harassment. Some harassers may contend that the victim has harmed the stalker or his/her family in some way or may post the victim's name and address.

A handful may target the online activities of their target to trace their IP address to gather more information about their victims. Some stalkers try to damage the data and equipment of their victim's computer by transmitting viruses. Some cyberstalkers may falsely affirm that the victim is harassing him or her. Some resort to ordering goods and services in the victim's name.

These frequently comprise subscriptions to pornography or ordering sex toys and then having them delivered to the victim's office or home.  

Cyberstalkers stalk their victims for various reasons. Some of them stalk because they suffer from pathological infatuations which are either sexual or professional, or because they suffer from inferiority feelings, or to instil fear, or for revenge over perceived or imagined rejection or to intimidate business or professional competitors.

The cyberstalkers may also, be of different types, romantic cyberstalkers or lust craving stalkers are looking for relationships or affairs, while nasty cyberstalkers are typically angry and vengeful, then there are cyberstalking groups who collaborate with a motive and then there is a composed cyberstalker whose intention mostly is to irritate.

Some stalkers are predators who lay a trap and patiently wait for their victims such as children or women, to emerge so that they can hunt them down. Some stalkers lay in wait for a specific person known or unknown to them primarily to harass them or to demonstrate their power and psychologically break them down.

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are hunting grounds for stalkers. Victims usually run into an offender on such platforms. Cyberstalkers analyse their victims to nourish their obsessions and inquisitiveness. Gradually, they could turn intense and repeatedly bombard their victims with scathing messages.

Some stalkers inundate their victims with abusive or derogative messages on web pages, message boards, and guest books to retrieve a reaction or response from their victim, and exploit that reply to initiate contact. Once they get a reaction from the victim, they will typically seek to track or follow the victim's internet activity. Some cyberstalking situations develop into physical stalking, and a victim may suffer wild and vicious phone calls, vandalism, threatening and physical attack.

To safeguard oneself from online stalking, internet users should not accept friend requests from people whom they have not met in person. Facebook users should select their security settings on Facebook to hinder the ability of people other than friends to publish on their wall and block anyone who exhibits suspicious behaviour on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

One should not share precise details about one's location or unnecessary identifiable information about oneself on any social media platform. Internet users should let online sites generate a password for them as we are much more liable to construct traceable passwords when compared to an algorithm. One should disallow and stop strangers from taking a photo or video of ours, to upload to the Internet. One should never respond to a private message on any social media site if one does not know the sender.

It's a good idea to set a reminder to change one's password for every online site, email, Facebook, and all other password-protected online sites once every 30-45 days and never share one's password even with one's intimate partners as human relations can come apart in future for diverse reasons.

To insulate oneself from a stalker, one should use a security software program such as Norton 360 with LifeLockTM to prevent spyware from being installed onto one's computer via a phishing attack or a contaminated web page. Security software would also help the Internet user to detect spyware on one's device and curtail the chances of being cyberstalked.

India seems to be a land of online bullies and stalkers. The country recorded the highest rate of children falling victim to cyberbullying in 2018, according to a survey conducted in 28 countries by the UK-based tech company.

Instances of cyberstalking in India have accelerated further, with over 37 percent of parents admitting that their children have become victims at least once, which is 15% more than in 2016.

 Hence, to safeguard ourselves from being cyberstalked, we should immediately block the person and report to the platform involved. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and many other platforms have built-in easy-to-use buttons to report vicious behaviour immediately.

If the behaviour of the cyberstalker is illegal or if you fear for your safety, then you should instantly reach the police and report the cyberstalker.

In India, women who are being prowled can complain online to the National Commission for Women (NCW), and the Commission will take the problem up with the police and ensure that the matter is expeditiously investigated. Any woman, in any part of India, can file this complaint. In specific cases, the commission will constitute an inquiry committee, conferred with powers to make on the spot inquiry, summon the accused, the witnesses, police records examine witnesses, and collect evidence.

Under Indian law, a cyberstalker can be booked under Section 509 of the IPC for outraging the modesty of a woman, S499 IPC, and also under the 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

After the Delhi Gang Rape case in 2012, the Indian Penal Code was amended by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 that added Section 354D to the IPC. Section 353-357 of the Indian Penal Code provides the punishment for perpetrating the crime of stalking. However, there are still no provisions in the criminal laws in India that explicitly criminalises cyberstalking in India.

In July 2015, the cyber cell of the Mumbai Police obtained the first-ever conviction in the country under the Information Technology Act 2000.

A city court convicted Yogesh Prabhu, 36, a supervisor in a private firm, to prison for three months for stalking and sending lewd pictures to his colleague who had earlier spurned his proposal. The police seized evidence such as IP addresses, laptops and statements from the server used by Prabhu to transmit the emails.

 Most of us when we think of the word, cyberstalking we think of someone online who is always observing us, following or harassing us, making us feel frightened or insecure. Thoughts arising in our minds do stalk us and make us feel insecure, just like a cyberstalker.

Under the circumstances, stalking our minds by becoming a witness of our thoughts could help in our spiritual journey and evolution. Self stalking could help us create a discipline of continually being mindful of our words, ideas, and ways of being in the world. This journey of self-stalking could be an act of love for ourselves so that we move through this world with unconditional love and respect for ourselves and others.