The development of technology has indeed changed our lives in ways that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. Round-the-clock accessibility is the mantra of the present age. Yes, technology has made life easier for everyone, but it comes with a flip side. Technology is not secure from crime, and they go hand in hand. One of the crimes that has come to the forefront, as a result of technological development is Cyber Crime, where in different illegal activities are conducted, including hacking of accounts like bank accounts to siphon away monies, cyber terrorism where in virus is implanted in systems to steal confidential information and many other crimes. Of these, Cyber Stalking has, of late, increased in number and is something that one needs to be extremely careful about.
When technology, particularly the Internet is used to stalk someone online, the crime is deemed to be Cyber Stalking. Cyber Stalking includes actions such as false accusations, identity theft, data destruction, threats to life, manipulation through threats of exposure, and last but not the least sexual exploitation and cyber bullying of minors. Cyber Stalking has stalkers take the help of e-mails and other kinds of message applications, messages posted to a Web site or a discussion group, sometimes even the social media to send unwanted messages, and harass a particular person with unwanted attention. Anonymity is the armour of a cyber stalker, and from the safety of this virtual armour, they stalk the victims without being detected. Cyber Stalkers are obsessive and in most cases indulge in illegal activities.
The Harm Done
Cyber Stalking is one of the most horrifying experiences for someone who has gone through the ordeal. Spyware software is used to monitor everything happening on the victim’s computer or cell phone. Thus, the cyber stalkers are rendered powerful with the most personal information of the victims.
The following are just a few examples of the harm done by cyber stalking:
- The very credentials of a person, including career, self-esteem, and confidence can be destroyed in the process.
- Old friendships also fail to stand the test of cyber stalking sometimes.
- Physical danger is very much a probability as the cyber stalker, when overly obsessive, can turn into a real time stalker, and thus try to harm the victim.
- Sometimes, people going through the ordeal of cyber stalking are unable to deal with the stress caused, and find themselves going into depression.
Cyber Stalking in India
Cyber laws in India came into existence in 2000 in the form of The Information Technology Act, 2000, but provisions regarding cyber stalking were included only in 2008. Cyber Stalking was included in the amended act in 2008, based on Ritu Kohli’s case, wherein the culprit Manish Kathuria, to avenge being fired by his boss, logged on to several chat sites as Mrs Ritu Kohli, the wife of his boss. He gave away her phone number to unknown people which resulted in Mrs Kohli receiving obscene calls. Ritu Kolhi’s case was an alarm to the Government, and thus amendments were made to the Information Technology Act, 2000. Laws against cyber stalking, and provisions for protection of victims were included under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2008. Manish Kathuria, the stalker of Mrs Ritu Kohli was finally arrested and then released on bail.
There are innumerable cases of cyber stalking in India. Unfortunately, many are not even aware of such a crime, let alone the existence of a law against it and thus bear the brunt of being stalked virtually. The police also seem to be reluctant to lodge a complaint regarding cyber stalking or bullying. However, a tiny landmark has been achieved recently with Yogesh Prabhu, 36, an executive in a private company, being sent to jail for three months for cyber stalking in 2009 by sending e-mails and harassing a person through an anonymous mail ID, because she rejected his proposal. He was tracked through the IP address and arrested, and has now been sentenced to 3 months imprisonment. Such a judgement will hopefully act as a deterrent to future cyber stalkers.
Cyber Stalking can be thwarted in the following ways:
- Safe guard the computer as well as cell phones with passwords. Change the passwords regularly for they too can be easily hacked.
- Cyber stalkers use different devices, including software as well as hardware, to monitor the activities of the victims. It is best to maintain vigilance over the physical access to one’s computer and keep a track of everyone who has access.
- Develop the habit of logging out of the computer when not in use and train the children in the same regard.
- Do a regular search on the Internet to find what information is available about you and your family for the public to see. Remove anything personal like pictures or any inappropriate contents.
- People have a habit of checking in to the places that they are visiting on social media. This is just making the task of the cyber stalker easier. Stop letting the world know where you are and what you are doing.
- Also, remove any future events you are about to attend from the social networks, if they are recorded on online upcoming events, calendars and itineraries.
- Make use of the privacy settings provided by the social networking sites and keep all information restricted to the closest of friends.
- In case of a doubt of being cyber stalked, seek help through a public computer. Using your own computer will forewarn the stalker and you may thus be in danger.
- Invest in a good Security Software and keep it updated.
- Children need to be made aware of this crime. Even at the cost of being repetitive, keep warning the children about the hazards of being lackadaisical about security, and keep telling them what needs to be done to remain safe. Encourage them to inform you in case of being cyber stalked.
- Use the print screen option on the key board to record any message from a cyber stalker which can be used as a proof when you report it to the police.
Technology is a boon only till we use it with utmost care, or it can very easily turn into a curse. We need not stay away from the wonders of the Internet; we just need to maintain the highest sense of security while using it. The Gen X and Y, the youth of today and tomorrow do not know of a world without the Internet. It is of utmost importance that we communicate to them the vagaries of this wonder world and equip them to be careful.