I want to write this article because in my childhood, I had experienced internet stalking which ultimately ended in physical stalking which then lead to several attempted abductions. I have now learned how to use the internet safely, who to communicate with and I've learned how stalkers work.
This article does not promote stalking whatsoever. In many countries, stalking is a criminal offence and can be punishable under your countries laws. I do not take responsibility for anyone who uses this blog post for criminal or otherwise inappropriate behavior. This post is intended for:
(1) Parents who have children that use the computer to communicate with others;
(2) For people who believe they are being stalked or might be in the future; and
(3) For general interest, or educational studies.
This article explains how people can be tracked online. When it comes to criminals such as stalkers and pedophile it doesn't necessarily mean they will use the internet as their main source to gather information. Often they will also attempt to establish trust with the other person. Having trust between the two means they will be more open about their lives, and more likely to give away more personal information. To find out how to remain anonymous online and ensure you are not tracked I suggest reading remove your online identity from Null-byte.
The technological way to track someone is real scary. In-fact, the internet is so advanced I've heard stories about even the CIA using publicly available tools to track down terrorists. This section is to teach people what tools are on the internet to track someone, and so you can run background checks on yourself. See how easy tracked you can be.
(1) Photo recognition - Google Image Search & TinyEye Reverse Image Search.
(2) Username checks - Check usernames.
(3) Social networking - Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, Tagged, Twitter & Google+.
(4) People Search - Zeba Search, USA People Search, Spokeo, Whitepages & Pipl.
As you can see there are so many ways to track someone online. In-fact, too many in my personal opinion. I also recommend checking out this great article to find what you want on Google.
Lets say they tried tracking you online, but they couldn't gather enough information about you and where you live. What is another method they could use? They could impersonate someone else and attempt to gain trust. How is this done? It often would start with a random friend request on Facebook, or other social networking sites. It might not even be on a social networking site, it could be MSN or Yahoo! Messenger.
It will almost always start slow. Whoever this person is wants you to think his your friend. So they will take it slow. You will often find they will ask you a lot about your interests and say, "Yea, me too! I've been doing xxxx for years!". If they are serious and don't understand particular sports or interest, they will research it to make themselves sound knowledgeable and legitimate.
What you might not know is over time, they will ask personal questions. For example, they might ask for your birth-date, a week later they will ask for more information and eventually they will connect the dots. So that is why rules must be put in place. What are some general rules when communicating to someone you don't know?
(1) Your DOB (date-of-birth) is to never be given out to anyone you don't know;
(2) Identifying photographs (e.g. standing next to a street sign or wearing school or club clothes in a photograph). Limit these photos to friends you know in person;
(3) Do not give away your address - not even when they say they have a present for you. I like to stick to the following rules: Live in a big city with over 500,000 residents? Then the most you can give away is your city (not suburb)! Do you live in a town with less than 500,000 residents? Lie and say you live at your closest big city (when it comes to safety, I encourage making a little fib);
(4) Further personal information such as parents names, where you were born, your contact number, etc should not be given out; and
(5) Before you meet someone you don't know, they must provide evidence they are real. The best method to establish this is to make webcam contact. But... What if they filmed someone else? You might be watching a tape. So here is the trick. Tell them to do something random like get a jar of honey and raise it above their head with their left hand.
- When the stalker and/ or pedophile has tracked you down, they will often create a new account that isn't associated with the last one at all. Now what I'm about to say has happened to me - so make sure you don't fall for this one like I did! I went out for a walk with our pet and came back home. I got an instant message from a random who said he saw me. I said "where" and "what was I doing?". He successfully answered those questions which freaked me out. Then he said do you live at xxxx road? The answer? "no, I don't live at xxxxxxx road. Unfortunately, I didn't take notice of his spelling. He didn't spell it correctly, and I was quick to say I don't live at that street with the correct spelling. So it always pays to be extra careful before pressing the send button.
This sections applies to parents with teenagers or people who want to be prepared dealing with teenagers going through an online stage. I understand parenting can be very hard when a child reaches this age, so we will have to look at two different methods parents can use:
The first method is forced and chances are it will cause trust issues in the house while the second method is through openness and honesty.
The forced method, key-logging, is recognised by James Batelli, the police chief of Mahwah, NJ. I think $80 isn't too bad for key-logging software so go out to your local computer shop and see whether they sell some. You can also make your own which is almost free. However this will be ideal for someone with intermediate to advanced technology skills.
Some routers let you pick websites you want to block access to, or even control what hours the internet will be up and what time it goes down (e.g. is their bed-time at 10:00PM? Set the router to block internet access after then). To change the settings in your router enter 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.0.1.1 into the URL bar in your browser. You may also check out this good software called K9 Web Protection.
The trust method is pretty much self-explanatory. Using a key-logging program or something like K9 Web Protection would make them feel untrusted and it isn't the best way to go about things. Spend more time with your teenager (e.g. do they like footy? Take them out for a game. Are they interested in art? Invest money into their passion such as art school and keep encouraging them. You will notice, over time, they will start to open up. So when they feel scared, or suspect a stalker or pedophile, they will come to the parent and that is ultimately, the goal. While teenagers are young and well educated in modern society, adults are wise and make better decisions. So it is better for the parent to get told as they are more likely to make the most wise decision. That is usually blocking the person - asking the child to tell the adult when he attempts to make contact again and reporting it to someone in the Police Cyber Operations Command Unit.
The conclusion is you can never be too careful. There is nothing wrong with accepting random friend requests, but ensure your privacy settings are tighter for those you don't know compared to who you do know. I suggest sitting down as a family and writing a list of do's and don'ts. Now I strongly recommend checking out Null-Bytes article on how to protect your privacy online. You don't have to go to those extremes, but taking some of the measures I've said and some of Alex's, you shouldn't have to worry about stalkers and pedophiles ever again.
Tracking through trust image credit: Halt Abuse KTD